Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
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    May 22nd, 2013jamiewakerdgequal marriage

    Whilst many of us were celebrating the fact the same-sex marriage bill passed at its third reading in the House of Commons last night and will now journey on to the House of Lords, some of us were disappointed to see our local MPs here in Reading stick to what some might say was their usual form.

    Alok Sharma (Reading West) is not recorded as not voting for or against the Bill and I have been informed that he is currently out of the country. He did vote in favour at the second reading and wrote to me previously to say that he would vote in favour if the church was protected.  Last Night, the Mirror newspaper (and The Spectator) reported that Reading East Rob Wilson had voted against the bill but on questioning this through twitter, Rob has seemed to take offence to this and informed followers that this was not the case – I did tweet him to ask if that meant he abstained but failed to get a reply.  Later tweets from others and seeing the list of votes shows us that he did actually abstain.

    Rob put his name to an amendment that was seen by many – including the government – to be a wrecking amendment. It was suggested that it would delay the bill.  The amendment -  which would have allowed for heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership – was championed by him and others as by their logic, by giving gay people the right to marry, this would cause inequality for straight people.  Strange that – Rob Wilson championing equality when his historical voting record on equality for LGBT people has been so poor. He also voted for the amendment to allow registrars to discriminate and decline to marry gay people. Neither amendments were passed but I am pleased to see that a review into civil partnerships for heterosexual people will be carried out but again surprised that Rob did not vote in favour of this review!  Why not – I hear you cry?  I wish I could answer. So the question remains – why did Rob Wilson then abstain from voting in favour of equality for his LGBT constituents? A response was promised today following a cryptic tweet he sent “…Thought of the Day: how to answer in a questioning way… ” I’m still waiting to see this official response.

    Minutes before the vote, Rob Wilson took to twitter to ask for someone to follow him so he could have his 4,000th follower – he even promised that he’d follow back the next 34 that followed him. I personally feel that this showed disrespect to his LGBT constituents waiting to see how he voted.  He may not vote to give them – us – equality, but he could have done without making frivolous tweets.  Others may disagree but I’m not prepared to change how I feel.

    In some ways the Mirror newspaper was right. Rob Wilson did vote against Equal Marriage – he just also happened to vote for it as well to register an abstention. To me as a gay resident of Reading, anything other that a yes was wrong. I also believe that to abstain is a cowardly way out – not to be seen to be homophobic and to appease his safe votes and I guess christian voters who are strongly against Marriage Equality for LGBT people. He doesn’t represent me or any of the other thousands of LGBT Constituents here in Reading and he ought to have been more honest with his constituents and voted no – if that’s how he really feels rather than trying to protect his votes for the next election.  I did receive an interesting tweet from someone who insisted that Rob had told them at what I refer to as the token consultation with LGBT people in Reading that privately Rob Wilson wanted to vote for the Bill but couldn’t due to the voters in East Reading.  I don’t know how true this statement is as the individual has deleted the tweet – although the end of the conversation has not been deleted and reads “…Also, friend was sat next to me when he said it, so I wasn’t alone in hearing him say it…”  I’ll let you decide on this bit as it does sound extremely unlikely to me.

    I held out hope that Rob Wilson would vote on the right side of history last night and although I suspected that he wouldn’t, you wonder why he is unable to represent all of his constituents. Although it shouldn’t, I feel that his actions have let the rest of his Tory colleagues in Reading down – some of them who have actively demonstrated that not all Tory party activists/campaigners/Councillors/MP’s are the same and have been campaigning for Equal Marriage here in Reading and assisted to secure funding for Readings’ SupportU service.

    As you’ll know, I’m not politically alligned to any party.  I once joined the Lib Dems but considering how MP Simon Hughes voted I’m glad I left them!

    Closer to the General Election, I will be inviting Rob Wilson and other candidates to a LGBT Husting – I wonder if he’ll even accept the invitation?

    All this said, the bill has now left the House of Commons and I look forward to seeing it journey to (and likely back and forth again) The House of Lords. Hats off to all the party leaders and MPs that championed marriage for gay people like myself – your constituents are very lucky to have you.  I just hope ours – well, one of ours – in Reading steps up the the plate and holds out an olive branch to the LGBT Community to try and make amends.  After all, we didn’t vote against or abstain when he and others got married did we?

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  • scissors
    May 19th, 2013jamiewakerdgequal marriage

    Don’t get too excited – I haven’t become fluent in Latin!  But the phrase seems very apt when I look at some of the amendments that have been tabled by a number of MP’s including one Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East.

    It goes without saying that I’m a vocal campaigner for Equal Marriage.  Of course being an openly gay man may have something to do with it so naturally I’m going to hold a little bit of bias.

    At the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill our local MP’s here in Reading acted very differently.  Alok Sharma (Reading West)  voted for the Bill (Thank you Alok) and as expected Rob Wilson (Reading East) voted against.  Actually he voted for as well so technically abstained citing that further safeguards are needed in the bill.   Not that he has a great record for equality for LGBT people anyway.

    I blogged just before the last reading about Rob’s attempt to meet the Gay Community in Reading and listen to what they had to say.  I still feel that it was a token meeting -  held during the day when people were at work and organised at short notice.

    Well the 3rd reading takes place next week and Rob Wilson, Tim Loughton and Charlotte Leslie have tabled amendments to the Bill to include Civil Partnerships for Straight couples.  I’m very much in favour of this if we’re going to have full equality for LGBT and straight people but I’m suspicious of this proposal and as the title of this blog piece reads, Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.  Let me explain.

    Tim Loughton has been a vocal opponent of Equal Marriage and voted against it at the second reading.  Like Rob, Charlotte Leslie abstained too.  Tim with David Burrowes were quite obviously trying to be human obstacles during the committee stage and I’m not surprised to see Tim and David joining Jim Shannon in submitting quite a few amendments to this bill anyway.  Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem) did not vote at the last reading (In fact I’m rather suprised at some of the Lib Dems at the vote – especially  as when I was a member I believed they were the right party to join for fighting for LGBT equality – I’m glad I quit now). Whilst Stephen Williams and Julian Huppert are tabling the amendment for the right reasons I’m cautious and convinced that the others are doing this to delay the bill.

    From the outside, it seems that much of the Tory party seems set on destroying themselves with their attacks and opposition to this Bill but I’m pleased that the debate has outed all of those MP’s who stand in the way of equality.

    We’re already hearing whispers that the government will attempt to compromise with the 150 Tory’s set to oppose the bill by considering amendments giving protection to “conscientious objectors”.  i.e Teachers and registrars who are against equality.  Evidence to me that there are still much to change within the party if they ever are going shake off that image of the nasty party.  Whilst some have deep rooted religious views, others are just worried they are going to lose their seat in the general election.  Not that religion should be an excuse for homophobia.  Religion and personally held beliefs should not change the way in which you do a job – whether you are a teacher, registrar or MP.   Many Tory’s are worried that Equal Marriage will prevent the Tory’s winning – I’m sorry to say this but the Tory’s have done quite a few other things since entering coalition that may sway voters to other colours instead of blue.

    Naturally, Rob has been tweeted by a few people about his voting intentions next week and his reply was non-committal and that there was a lot more debate to take place.  It’s quite likely that Rob already knows his voting intention (as we all felt he did last time) and a scheduled blog post will suddenly appear again straight after the vote with local gay Tory’s tweeting to his defence.  I guess it’s difficult trying to keep your known voters on side.  After all, wards such as Caversham contains a lot of Tory voters and Christian Tory Voters too.  Sadly us gays are all over the place – I guess this makes the game a lot harder to play!

    So yes, Rob Wilson may come bearing gifts but all that glitters is not necessarily gold.  Though I’m happy (and hoping) for Rob to prove me wrong.

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  • scissors
    January 5th, 2013jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, equal marriage, gay, homophobia

    As many people know, I’ve been pestering our local MP’s here in Reading about their stance on Equal Marriage for LGBT people and whether they would be supporting equality for their LGBT constituents.  For a year I’ve been tweeting Rob Wilson without response which I’m assured is nothing unusual and even through the Reading Pride twitter account we only received a letter TO Rob Wilson from Prime minister David Cameron confirming his commitment but still failed to give an indication as to how Rob would vote when he does with his conscience as all Torys will be doing when the time comes – dangerous considering how many people within the Tory’s hold what I would consider bigoted views.

    None of the other political parties are any better mind you.  Both Labour and the Lib Dems are no longer whipping their MP’s.  Labour’s shadow cabinet did a U-turn on 10th December on this matter allowing Labour MP’s to also vote with their conscience and according to Owen Jones in the Independent this U-turn was not proposed on a matter of principle but largely because 3 shadow ministers (including Stephen Timms and Gavin Shuker) had threatened to resign.  According to Owen, 3 Shadow Cabinet ministers – Angela Eagle, Stephen Twigg (both gay) and deputy leader Harriet Harman had argued passionately in favour of maintaining the line.  Suprising since Labour’s vote on the repeal of section 28 was a whipped vote.  The Lib Dems also followed suit offering their MP’s a free vote.  Nick Clegg criticised David Cameron for allowing a free vote but then announced that a whipped vote would not be very liberal.  I won’t waste my time even mentioning UKIP.  In my opinion, this decision by all party leaders was the wrong one.

    rob-wilson-response-equal-marriageBack in Reading, Rob Wilson finally responded – not to me – but to another tweeter.  I love the fact that he said everyone is getting the same response – sorry, Rob but you had failed to respond to me and Reading Pride.  As you can see from the short exchange to the left, Rob Wilson wants to hold local meetings about it!  Why Rob?  You either agree with Equality or you don’t.  It’s that simple!  Replace the word gay with words such as disabled or Asian and we would not behaving this conversation.  Then again, if we look at the public whip website, they record Rob Wilson as voting very strongly against equal gay rights.  Tim Harris once told me that this record is wrong or misunderstood and I have waited for an explanation.  Perhaps, Rob may change these statistics if he votes in support of equal marriage for LGBT people?  Then again….

    I also wrote a letter to MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma following comments he made in an interview to the Reading Chronicle.  I wanted clarity on how he intended to vote as his comments seemed to suggest that he places religion over equality.  I wrote the following on 17th December 2012:

    “…Dear Alok Sharma,

    I am writing to you following your recent quotes in the Reading Chronicle about Equal Marriage for people who identify themselves as LGBT.  For your reference, you are quoted as saying:

    “In many respects civil partnerships are recognised by the legal system in the same manner as civil marriage and the introduction of same-sex marriage would therefore not, in my view, amount to a revolution in the law.

    “However, I will never vote for legislation which forces religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages and I will seek guarantees on this point from the Government.”

    I was wondering if you can help clarify what you are saying? As you will recall, I have written to you twice with regards to equality for LGBT people with my last letter asking if you will be supporting the thousands of people in West Reading who are LGBT to obtain same-sex marriage and therefore equality – your previous letter did not confirm how you will be voting when you vote with your ‘conscience’ of offer any reassurances to I or other LGBT people  in West reading of your commitment to equality for all of our many diverse communities.  Please can you confirm that you are not going to ignore a number of constituents?

    Please note that Civil Partnerships are not recognised as civil marriage otherwise they would be called marriage, would they not? Could you also explain how you priorities equalities – ie Religious freedom over marriage equality?

    As you can appreciate, I can choose to follow a faith but I do not have a choice over my sexuality and I have found your quotes in the paper to be insensitive to people, like myself, who have persecuted by society.

    Imagine changing the word gay and replacing it with the word disabled or the colour of an individuals skin? Whilst this sort of discrimination was widespread many years ago, I am pleased to see it is no longer acceptable and I hope the discrimination that LGBT people continue to receive becomes no longer acceptable either.

    I will be watching this debate very closely and see how elected representatives such as yourself and Rob Wilson represent your LGBT constituents.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jamie Wake…”

    response-from-alok-sharma-equal-marriageUnlike Rob Wilson, Alok Sharma responds very quickly (I had to wait a number of months before Rob replied to my email about the OK2BGAY campaign – mind you, neither MP’s pledged their support for it) and I received a letter on 20th December.  You can read it in its entirety to the left.

    Sadly, Alok didn’t confirm his support for his LGBT constituents in the same way that he confirmed his support faith-based organisations in Reading but says he is minded to support marriage equality if he receives a cast-iron guarantee that religious organisations aren’t discriminated against.    He won’t be making a final judgement until he has seen the detail of the legislation.  I wait patiently to see how he votes.

    Before any of my Tory friends jump on me, this blog piece is not about reinforcing the view that the Tory’s remain the nasty party – that’s a stigma you have to remove yourselves.  It’s also not an attack on any other party as I also don’t believe any political party has come out looking well in this whole debate.  My right to marriage should not be up for debate.  I beleive the church has come off even worse so – especially after the announcement of permitting Gay Bishops and not Female Bishops.  Many faith-based organsations do want to perform marriage for same-sex couples.

    Like anyone that campaigns for LGBT equality, I will be watching this debate very closely and am in the process of launching the We Vote Too Campaign which will monitor and challenge those elected MP’s that fail to represent their LGBT constituents.  With some elections being won on such small margins, wouldn’t it be funny if the LGBT community was mobilised in such a way to vote to prevent the homophobe winning an election?  “…Vote for anyone but xxxxx…”

    Well there you are, my first blog post of 2013 and yes I know, I haven’t blogged for a while!  I’ll try to rectify that this year!

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