Saturday, April 28, 2007

A new approach to drawing up a reading list

As somebody who doesn't have time to read as much as he would like, one of the pleasures in life is a friend recommending a brilliant book that you would have never have got round to reading otherwise.

Therefore how delighted I was to see that my good friends in the Christian right has created a reading list just for people like you and me. Scanning down the list of the American Library Association's list of 100 top books people tried to ban I find some books I loved, Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho, (its a satire for fucks sake!) and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, (why is that on anybody's to ban list?); and some classics such as To Kill a Mocking Bird that I'm definitely going to make an extra effort to read now. I may leave the Joy of Gay Sex a couple of months though. (found via the Guardian).

Update: scanning the list again I spotted James and the Giant Peach on it. The bastards. I loved that book as a kid. Dahl's The Witches, which is also on the list, I can understand that some nutters would have a problem with the occult references. But what on earth is corrupting about a giant peach? Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

When the two Americas meet

The video above shows what happened when the choir from Norco High School went to see Mike Daisey's one man show Invincible Summer. Its a rather more direct approach to theatre criticism than I was taught at school.

Although like every other sentient being on the planet I whole heartedly condemn such attempts at censorship and intimidation, I can't be the only theatre lover who has seen this and created a mental list of shows that wouldn't have been greatly improved by a stage invasion.

Decline and Fall (The Entertainer - The Old Vic)

Following Friday night's trip to see Zoe Wanermaker at the National last night the Girl and I ventured down the road to the Old Vic to see her My Family co-star Robert Lindsay at the Old Vic. Lindsay is currently giving his version of Archie Rice, the fading music hall 'star' made famous by Lawrence Olivier, in the Old Vic's 50th anniversary revival of The Entertainer, Joe Orton's follow up to the mould breaking Look Back in Anger.

This production left me with very mixed feelings. One the hand after a slow first act it builds to an almost heartbreaking conclusion as Archie after years of raging against the dying of the (spot)light finally finds himself washed up and forced to leave the stage. Robert Lindsay is very strong as the showman who despite his smile and constant banter is dead inside. He makes you care about man who it would be easy to hate by showing that underneath the forced smile he hates himself more then you ever could.

But despite Lindsay's performance, and some competent if not sparkling support from the rest of the company, I feel an opportunity has been missed. If ever a play was worthy of an updating this is it. The parallels between its backdrop of the disaster in Suez and its attendant rise in political cynicism and the modern day are striking. But the music hall which in the late 50s was still on its last legs is now only a distant memory, making it difficult for the modern audience (like myself) to relate to one of the key themes of the play. And some of Orton's text although mould braking in its style and targets back then, now sounds rather clunky and tame. Jean's attack on the Monarchy, which so shocked Olivier he insisted it be cut when the original production transferred onto the West End, hardly causes a ripple these days.

So I wouldn't kill your granny to get tickets but you could do worse.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

George Bush's USA: An equal oportunities torturer

There has rightly been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Britain about the treatment dished out to British nationals and residents by the US at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. It has, quite rightly, been described as torture as well as a gross abuse of due process and Human Rights.

But one shouldn't lose fact that the US's meritocratic(ish) society is a beacon for many across the world who live in less equal societies. It was heartening therefore to be reminded by this week's Economist that the USA is also willing to torture its own citizens and deprive them of their basic human rights as part of the war against terror (assuming they aren't white of course).

The Economist recounts the tail of Jose Padila, who was arrested with much fanfare in 2002 and accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack within the US. Five years later he is finally being brought to trial. Not on charges of planning any specific act, mind, but of being part of an ephemeral global terrorist conspiracy (the case against him is spelt out in this article from the Washington Post). So what has he been doing for the last five years? Well for four of them he was held in military custody as an "enemy combatant", and it appears subjected to many of the interrogation (torture) techniques that were perfected in Guantanamo.

Now I'm not arguing that Padila isn't a wannabe or actual terrorist. Some of the evidence released by the US authorities is pretty damning. It is in fact infuriating that it appears that a potentially guilty man may go free because most of the evidence that has been obtained against him is inadmissible in court (at least as a US citizen Padila will get something approximating a fair trial). If the Bush administration hadn't been so cavalier with the rule of law a dangerous man may now be contemplating the rest of his life in prison, instead of having a good chance of walking free. (Having said that of course he may be innocent, and the evidence that the Government is willing to test in court may be just as crooked as the stuff that has been thrown out.)

And of course such abuses only help those like China by undercutting the west's attempts to criticise their much more serious human rights abuses (not that we seem to do that much now they have gotten richer).

Monday, April 23, 2007

None of the above?

One of my few treasured memories from my involvement in student politics was the look on the face of a particularly obnoxious member of SWSS losing an uncontested election to RON (re-open nominations).

May something similar be about to happen to the front-runners in the race to the Republican presidential nomination? There have been rumblings for many weeks that many in the Republican base are unhappy about having to vote for the best of a bad lot (in their view) in the primaries. For many true believers Guilani is too socially liberal, they don't trust McCain as far as they can throw him and Romney appears to be a serial flip flopper. Hence the excited babble about former senator and c-list TV actor Fred Thompson, who it appears is seriously flirting with a run.

My (uninformed) view has been that anybody entering the race this late (still a year to go to the primaries and it is already late!) would seriously struggle. All the best back room talent has been snapped up, and they would be far behind in the race to raise the dollars necessary to compete on "Super Duper Tuesday". However, the graph below gave me pause for thought.

It shows the latest prices on the Iowa Electronic Market for futures in the Republican nomination (click the graph for the latest prices). The sharp eyed will notice that currently the market is making A. N. Other the favourite to win the Republican nomination. Given that this a position generated by what people who know something about politics are willing to risk their money on I think it has to be taken seriously and I will be keeping my eye on it as things unfold.

PS for those with a greater feel for these things there is probably easy money to be made from the fact that the Iowa Market is so out of tune with betfair (where Guiliani is the strong favourite and Thompson F is an also ran).

Who ever said politics was petty?

Many of my non-political friends tell me that they are turned off politics by how petty it is. Well I'm sure this article from Salon will change their minds (hat tip: Political Wire) . It highlights the good spirited policy led debate that is going on amongst those contesting the Republican Primary in my former stomping ground of South Carolina. Or not. This is after all the state that in 2000 brought Karl Rove's questionable sense of morality and (alleged) predilection for push polling to the world's attention.

The US primary system has many things to recommend it. For on thing given the heavy gerrymandering that goes on in many places it is only thing that keeps incumbents somewhere close to honest. However, I can't see how the year of public internecine warfare that both parties will have to endure in the run up to next springs presidential primaries can do anything other than turn off the average man in the street from the whole process.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why did nobody tell me Doctor Who started at half 6?

Would it be too much to ask for the BBC to start their flagship Saturday night entertainment programme at the same time every week? I've now got to explain to an irate house mate why I've only recorded the second half. My blood is on your hands BBC!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Well it was more interesting than the staff meeting" (The Rose Tattoo - National Theatre)

The Girl's response to the Rose Tattoo may be true, but I'm guessing it was a close run thing.

I'm not sure there was a single thing about this production that didn't irk me. The plot is thin, especially when stretched to a arse numbing three hours. The design with its isolated spinning house (look at us look at us we have a fancy drum revolve which we must use at every oportunity) just highlighted how the production fails to fill the cavernous Olivier. There are too many bit parts, random children run around the stage, sailors turn up for 30 seconds in the first act and aren't seen again until the curtain call (nice work if you can get it) and a bloody goat that just wanders around looking bored. I wonder if the production team hadn't spread their jam so thinly whether they could have got a cast that actually looked like they were doing anything more than mailing their performances in.

Even Zoe Wanermaker in the lead role as the distraught scillian-american widow grated after about five minutes. Her charecter, despite being on stage for virtually the whole 3 hours, never procedes past being a caricture, and as she spends virtually all her time wailing and gnashing her teeth a bloody annoying one at that.

Oh and the accents, the accents! They were all over the place. The Girl, being a fully paid up american, can spot a brit doing an US accent a mile off. I'm not so fussy, but you would have thought that the cast could have picked one accent and stuck with it. Susannah Fielding as Rosa managed to get through three in a single sentence, none of them close to an authentic southern accent.

All in all not recommended.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)

You can't move on the Tube at the moment without seeing a poster for The Lives of Others. Boosted by its Oscar and the almost unanimous critical praise (only the Sindy was sniffy and who it reads that anyway) it looks like it might be the first European film to cross over into the mainstream since Amile. And it deserves to.

Set in 1980s East Berlin it, in simple terms, tells the story of a Stasi officer, Gerd Weisler, who is tasked to spy on Georg Dreyman, a seemingly loyal playwright whose partner also happens to be sleeping with a senior party official. Spying on this couple awakes Weisler's humanity, with disastrous consequences.

As a thriller it is extremely competent. The Girl and I had both worked out what was going to happen with 45 minutes to go. We were both wrong. It also has its lighter, comedic, moments ,that nicely counterpoint the gloom. But what makes this film great is its chilling evocation of a time and place that many, east and west, would prefer to see swept under the carpet of history. A place where a child's unguarded word can land a father in prison, an innocent joke told in the canteen can potentially ruin a career. A public sphere sucked dry of humanity. Central to this is a brilliant performance by Ulrich Muehe as Weisler. How Muehe's face can both be so expressionless as the prototypically inhuman secret policeman and yet be so evocative of the humanity buried within that slowly comes to surface without ever breaking it, is breathtaking. It is worth the admission price alone. Sebastian Koch as Dreyman gives a strong performance too as a man finally driven to take a stand he knows he should have made years before.

Its not perfect by any means. The end section is too long, although it does contain perhaps the best one-liner I've seen in a film for a while. Why this case affects Weisler whilst so many others haven't is never really satisfactorily explained. But still these are minor quibbles for what is an extremely strong piece of film making. Go and see it.

Those localist Tories strike again

Big news from the Tories, they have found the answer to climate change. A national school bus service!!

Now, now, pipe down on the back seats, this is a serious policy proposition by Her Majesty's Official Opposition. Chris Grayling announced yesterday that if the Tories win the next general election they will develop a national school bus network, modelled on the yellow school buses that are staple of every American high school show. This allegedly demonstrates the Tories' commitment to green transport . It demonstrates that the Tory front bench is subject to the same ideological incoherence that the libdems are often accused (and it must be said occasionally guilty) of.

While the Conservatives' rhetoric on education has been all setting headteachers free to run schools how they want and empowering local government to deliver for their communities not Westminster. In practice the man in Whitehall is going to be telling LEAs what colour to paint their buses and how much they can charge (£2 a day it turns out).

Another thing. Mr Grayling indicates that he wants this service to be run by social enterprises rather than the big national bus companies. Why? Well politically because being nice to third sector organisations is the flavour of the month, and the Conservatives want to shed the image of being in the pocket of big business (chocolate orange anyone?). But practically it makes little sense. The third sector tend to be good at delivering niche services, and righting market failures. Often where the major capital outlay is human (which they can generally source cheaper than the private sector). Where is a social enterprise going to find the money to buy a whole fleet of buses (yellow) to set up as bus business? The taxpayer, that's where. And why should I fork out to subsidise a competitor to private companies where there is no evidence of market failure?

The only reason why the private sector wouldn't be able to handle school bus runs across the country efficiently (and I was under the impression most of the country already has school buses), is if you made the contracts so big that only a few companies could handle them, and thereby stymie competition. Say by making it a national system run from Whitehall were the drive would be to keep the complexity down to a minimum.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tory MP calls for ethnic cleansing

I saw the link to a post on Nadine Dorries blog declaring that Gypsies and Travellers aren't welcome in her constituency and should be forced to live like normal settled people on Iain Dale's Diary last night (more on his condoning of Dorries racism later maybe if I have calmed down). It annoyed me then, and thinking about it in bed this morning it made my blood boil. We have an MP, of a major British party, effectively calling for ethnic cleansing, the driving of an ethnic group from an area just because they are different.

I quote:

"For all the bleeding hearts that are about to blog me and tell me that gypsies and travellers are now classed as an ethnic group because of their culture and beliefs I say this - I have no problem with that. You can believe and follow whatever culture you like – but if you want to live in England you do it living in a house, send your children to school and conform to the societal framework that the rest of us have to, because that’s how it is in Britain. That’s how we live; it’s a British culture thing."

So according to Ms Norries you can only live in the UK if your 'culture' fits with her view of what British culture is. I assume everybody else is to be driven into the sea, or perhaps marched to a gas chamber (I know, I know, Godwin's law. But given the history of the treatment of the romani and associated peoples in modern European history its not an unfair comparison to make).

So because you choose to live your life in a metal box on wheels, rather than a brick box without wheels, you don't have a place in British society. Doesn't matter that you work, pay your taxes, send your kids to school and abide by the law (as most Gypsies and Travellers do). Nadine Dorries MP doesn't like your culture, so you must change it or go.

This is not to deny there isn't a lot of friction between some sections of the Gypsy and Traveller communities and some parts of the settled community, and that some of it is the fault of individuals or groups within the Gypsy and Traveller communities. But that isn't a reason for driving all Gypsies and Travellers from England, no more than actions of Geoffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitkin are a reason for rounding up all Tories.

Well thank you Ms Dorrie for reminding me why I got active in politics in the first place. It was to stand up to bigots like you.

PS re-reading her post I note the 'poor' are unwelcome in Ms Dorrie's constituency too. Well I say poor, actually anybody with the average household income can stay out,

" If you want to live in Flitton village, get yourself an education, a good job, save up and buy yourself a house."

According to rightmove the cheapest property for sale in Flitton is on the market for £220,000. So you would need a household income in excess of £50,000 to be allowed to live in Ms Dorries constituency. So much for the Tories being a party for everyone.

Friday, April 13, 2007

US politics by the numbers

There has been a lot of comment recently about the huge amount of money raised by the US Presidential candidates in the first quarter of the year.

However two other numbers took my eye when wading through the mass of reporting on the 1st quarter returns (anyone holding or running for federal office has to file quarterly returns with the FEC the US equivalent of the UK's Electoral Commission).

1) John Warner (the Republican Senator from Virginia) managed to raise only $500 (£250)through the whole quarter. That wouldn't buy you dinner at some Presidential fundraisers. Given the fact that Warner is still talking about standing for re-election in 2008 raising that little money is quite a feat. Many lobbyists will send money to members of congress up for re-election as a matter of course, no matter whether they actively canvas for it or not.

2) Tim Johnson the Democratic Senator from South Dakota is living proof of that. He managed to raise $660,000 in the first quarter, despite being incapacitated by a stroke in late December.

So lobbyists are willing to throw money at Democrat from a heavily Republican leaning state who has spent the last three months in a hospital bed and may never return to work, but are ignoring a popular Republican in traditionally Republican state at federal level (it took a melt-down from George Allen to lose it for them last year). Omens aren't good for the GOP in 2008 it seems.

Signing off in style

I've always thought Jason Robinson is slightly overrated as Rugby Union player. The fact that although he has been a regular fixture in England teams over the last 6 or 7 years he has never been able to nail down a single position as his own speaks volumes for me.

However scoring the winning try in the final minute of your last ever club game? That has to go down as one of the greatest ever send-offs in English rugby history (Martin Johnson lifting the World Cup at the end of his last ever match for England is the only other one that comes to mind).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What do we want? a nice footrub and a sit down

Word reaches us that Mark Thomas is organising a mass lone protest within the restricted zone around Parliament on 21 April. The aim is for there to be over 2,000 individual protests during the day, thereby doubling the number of demos that have happened within the restricted zone since the rules were introduced.

More information and a useful tool for creating applications for permission is available on Marks site. Permission slips have to be with the Police by 1030am this Sunday (15 April).

My flatmate and I have spent a happy evening working out were we are going to picket. I suspect my attempts to have the DTI ban the sale of spring loaded letter boxes will strike a chord with many of my fellow Focus deliverers.

Oh the irony

Paul Wolfowitz who has raised many hackles with his forthright (many would say overzealous) crusade against corruption during his tenure as head of the World Bank has admitted to over promoting and overpaying his partner. Those neo-cons, such paragons of virtue.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wolves in the Snow (John Gabriel Borkman - Donmar Warehouse)

If tonight's theatre outing was experimental, Monday nights was very straight down the line, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Donmar.

John Gabriel Borkman was a succesful and influential banker until he was imprisoned for fraud. 8 years after his release he now paces his upstairs room like 'a trapped wolf', while downstairs his estranged wife Gunhild broods over her family's disgrace and dreams of her son atoning for his father's misdeeds. Into this bleak midwinter comes Grunhild's twin sister Ella, rival to Grunhild for the affections of both her son who Ella took in after his father was disgraced and for Borkman himself.

This is a story of how personnel (male) ambition can leave families devastated in their wake. Unlike Karsten Bernick the hero of Ibsen's earlier Pillars of the Community there is never any question of Borkman renouncing his drive for power, even if that mean dragging himself and his former lover out into the middle of a snowstorm.

Michael Grandage's production has quite rightly been showered with praise, with . It would be all too easy to let the hysteria that is always bubbling underneath the surface of all the main characters dominate, but thanks to some strong performances, especially from Ian McDiarmid as the downtrodden Borkman who slowly dscovers the old megalomania is still there.

Who's that girl? (Attempts on Her Life - National Theatre)

Ann is a lover. Ann is a genius. Ann is a pornstar.
Ann is a terrorist. Ann is a artist. Ann is a tourist guide.
Ann is a suicide. Ann is a Mother. Ann is a sports car.

Attempts on Her Life, Martin Crimp's '12 [Update: actually 17] situations for the theatre' currently playing at the National, is less a play and more a piece of performance art. Exploring through the never seen Ann, the late 20th century obsessions of sex, violence, consumerism, TV, and some more sex. Katie Mitchel's high tech and high energy production employs 11 actors and a multitude of cameras to tell the multitude of stories of Ann's life.

Its a disjointed, and at times alienating production. Most of the action on stage is of the actors filming each other, the results being edited together to tell the story on a big screen hovering above the cavernous Lyttelton stage (striped completely bear for this production). However, it is also by turns hilarious and touching, as Crimp satirises many elements of modern life.

This is obviously a play that splits audiences, and the critics (Mark Shenton rounds up the critics views here) Whilst some people were walking out in disgust within half an hour, I loved (most) of it. Its not a play you can really emotionally engage with, and some of the references are a little dated 10 years on, but if you are willing to go with the unconventional staging, structure, and the occasional bum note, it is well worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

They do things differently in Scotland

Labour's campaign for the Scottish Parliament has sparked controversy yet again. Jack McConnell's visit to Nairn to open their new golf centre over the weekend has allegedly sparked outrage from local residents. Not you understand for anything he said, but because he went on a Sunday.

Apparently there is an unwritten rule that the parties don't campaign in the Highlands on the Sabbath, and the SNP have thrown a hissy fit. Labour have predictably tried to spin their way out of the issue by claiming that the First Minister holding a photocall and then rallying the troops in the local Tesco's cafe doesn't constitute campaigning. Oh really?

Anyway what assumed me was the quote from our own Danny Alexander that he encouraged his deliverers not to go out on a Sunday because it is, 'important that people involved in campaigning have a break'. The organisers I know tend to take the view that the only Sunday activists should take off is the one after the election, assuming they have already got their thank you Focus out!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Irish eyes aren't smiling (Harlequins 34 - London Irish 17)

After three weeks off and over a month away from the Stoop Harlequins returned to action today against our old 'friends' from Reading, London Irish. This will be one of those games were the statistics will not tell the whole story. Irish dominated both territory and possession yet came away empty handed. Even a comically inept performance from referee David Rose (who it must be remembered also whistled Quins off the park in the away fixture in September) couldn't help Irish turn their pressure into points, as a mixture of heroic Quins defence and a lack of invention and precision behind the scrum led to them failing to put their chances away. On the other hand despite living off scraps for most of the game Quins for once finished off their chances scoring on four of their five trips into the Irish 22 (they would have scored on the fifth too if Rose hadn't missed Irish killing the ball at three successive rucks after Mike Brown's break).

The difference between the two sides were the storming runs by man of the match Chris Hala'Ufia, at times the Irish defenders looked like skittles being bounced off by a bowling ball, and the more silky but equally effective sallies of future England full back Mike Brown. Both created a try by breaking the Irish line from within their own 22, although credit must also go to the excellent support play that led to both chances being converted.

Truth and Illusion (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Royal Exchange Manchester)

No blogging for a couple of days because I've been up visiting my ancestral roots up in Lancashire. The trip included taking in the revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

I think their are probably few better places to stage Albee's masterpiece than the cockpit like Exchange, with the audience arranged around the front room of George and Martha's New England house like the crowd at medieval bear baiting pit. And baiting is what transpires in that front room, as the middle-aged college professor and his wife tear into each other for three hours (did I mention another reason why the exchange is perfect for this play is that it has modern comfy chairs).

Martha and George may have loved each other once, but now they fill their days with sniping and game playing, the game seemingly being who can drive the other to madness first. On this evening they are joined for a night-cap by Nick the new young professor on campus and his beautiful loving wife Honey. The evening soon descends into alcohol fuelled, emotional violence as George and Martha tear into each other leaving Nick and Honey's seemingly perfect marriage as collateral damage.

This is an excellent production, that, despite its three hours, maintains a breathless pace throughout. It is highlighted by a show stopping performance by Phillip Breatherton as George (who despite having been in Footballer's Wives can, it appears, really act) ably supported by Barbara Marten as the harridan Martha. I was less sold on Michael Begley who was a slightly wooden Nick, and Joanne Froggatt who does her best with the underwritten Honey.

This is well worth catching in the last couple of weeks of its run.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Capturing a moment in time (Sizwe Banzi is Dead - National Theatre)

Against my better judgement (given her woeful record at picking stuff for us to see) I let the girl drag me to see Sizwe Banzi is Dead at the National last night. I'm so glad I did.

Sizwe was written in 1972 as a protest against the apartheid era pass book laws that forced non-whites in South Africa to always carry documentation proving they had the right to live and work in the cities. Failure to have a passbook with the correct stamp could lead to imprisonment or deportation back to the jobless countryside. The plot centres around Sizwe Banzi an illegal black labourer in Port Elizabeth who must choose between giving up his name and identity by pasting his photograph into a dead man's passbook, or being thrown out of the city and forced to trek 150 miles back to his home town, penniless and without hope of finding work.

This is without doubt a ferocious broadside against the apartheid regime that still packs an emotional punch 17 years on from the release of Mandela. Many critics have rightly drawn comparisons with the debates on ID cards and integration in today's Britain. Anybody watching the scene where a proud father is reduced to a snivelling "boy" by a white police office using the excuse of checking his passbook to humiliate him, who doesn't worry about what is to come for the ethnic minorities in this country needs to open their eyes.

But don't be fooled. This isn't a 'worthy' play. It opens with a brilliant comic monologue from John Kani, maintains a cracking pace throughout. I'm a terrible fidget but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the stage.

John Kani and Winston Ntshona are reunited to play the characters they created with the white playwright Athol Fugard 25 years ago. They shared the 1975 Tony for their performances in the original production and you can see why. Their comic timing is immaculate, and they manage to portray the anger and humiliation of proud men ground down by an unfair system without resorting to histrionics. The parts are written for young men, angry at how the system has stolen their future. Kani and Ntshona may not have that energy anymore, but instead they imbue the text with sadness at wast of their characters lives.

The run at the National ends on the 4th of April. My advice. Beg or steal a ticket if you have to. Theatre both this funny and with this emotional impact does not come along that often.

PS The South African born Mark Shenton has an interesting personal view on his blog

Church Homophobia again....

... in what is becoming a recurring theme yet another example of the Church's intolerance on this blog; and I was raised as such a nice christian boy.

Today's Observer highlights what could become an interesting test case on the tension written into employment laws between he freedom of religious groups to insist that their staff conform to their religious teachings and their staff not to be unreasonably discriminated against on grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation etc. The case centre's around a youth worker, John Reaney, who applied for a job with the Diocese of Hereford. He was the unanimous choice of the interview panel, which included members of the clergy, and his appointment was expected to be rubber stamped by the Bishop. Instead he was called in for another interview that included questions about his sex life, following which he was informed that as a practising homosexual he was unsuitable for the job.

Reaney is not surprisingly suing for unlawful discrimination. The case will rest on how tightly the tribunal interprets the loophole that allows religious organisations to discriminate where the post holder must embody the ethos of the organisation. The courts have already ruled that it shouldn't include teachers in faith schools for instance, so he has a reasonable chance and good luck to him.

The legalities notwithstanding I am yet again annoyed at what is after all the official state church treating parts of its flock as second class citizens. Most irritating is the hypocrisy. There would be no question of the Church dragging a straight applicant into a side room and quizzing them on their sexual history, nor for that matter turning somebody down for a job because they had had premarital sex (equally 'sinful' as a bit of sodomy). What is it about gay sex that gets the Bishops so excited?