Prime Minister’s Questions should be reformatted so as to be less of a grandstanding gift to the PM (of any party) while spurring the PM to be less dismissive of the electorate (on whose behalf the questions are asked).
Perhaps the number of questions should be halved & the questioner given the right to respond to the PM’s answer thus encouraging more pertinent responses than - We are spending more money - or merely - We’ve done more than those on the benches opposite did (Nya-na-na-na-na! Ya boo sucks!).
A format akin to a weekly grilling of the PM by a select committee would be, for “Hard working British families”, a more fruitful method of interrogation. Questions from party stooges along the lines of - Would the Prime Minister agree with me that he/she is doing a wonderful job? - should be barred.
“Until men are bound to, determined to and required by law to share equally in the personal, intimate, care and nurturing of their children yes, I believe women have the inalienable right of self-determination in matters of reproduction until the moment before birth.
Without that equality of responsibility and equality in the financial, career and life impact that childbirth brings I see no reason why men deserve a voice in this.”
In 2001 on my website of that time "Breaking The Bloody Glass" I wrote a series of essays/articles under the heading "Letters From An Alien". One of them was titled "Mandela - a judgement". I re-post it here at the request of "maddogmaxim" in his response to my post "Nelson Mandela, thank you"
I post it without alteration but with this additional comment: I hold Desmond Tutu in very high regard.
Some may view the next sentence as morbid but I must write this now in order to avoid being a cowardly vulture after the events. In the not too distant future Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu will die. There will be obituaries. Both men will be eulogised as courageous. Mandela in particular will be noted for his moral weight. After twenty seven years of unjust imprisonment by racist, murderous hypocrites, followed by his adherence to a non-racial agenda - free of revenge and translated into political power - he is one of very few politicians whose ethical stature is such as to embarrass the usual self-serving political pragmatists into a semblance of ethical behaviour. Desmond Tutu's quest for healing through his Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be noted alongside and seen as a duality with Mandela's let bygones be bygones approach.
The plaudits will pass; soon after to be replaced by questioning followed by criticism with accusation lurking in the wings. There may be suggestions of financial or sexual impropriety: holidays, houses, cars for family members - paid for out of government, party or church funds or merely given as gifts (better refused?) from admirers of these extraordinary men who subsequently passed them on. Hints of sexual excess or infidelity will ooze from digital quills though Mandela's twenty seven year confinement may clip the wings of all but the most imaginative of investigative journalists.
Did Desmond Tutu ever wear a tutu? Perhaps TheNational Enquirer, Daily Mail, News of the World or The Sunday Times have already done that one. If not they probably will. And what exactly did he get up to while ministering in the flesh pots of Golders Green, St Alban's and Bletchingley in Surrey. After all it was the permissive 60's. Did the future Bishop inhale? And of course there is that embarrassing BBC interview with journalist Mark Lawson on The Big Question re:God and Apartheid - painfully naive or intellectually dishonest? Well, Tutu is a Christian so he has to be one or the other.
The careers and behaviour of their respective children (four each) will be scrutinised and any faults or weaknesses discerned in the offspring will be shown to be signs of more serious paternal weaknesses and failings - pointing to even more serious political weaknesses and failings.
Nelson Mandela has confirmed that he sought and received financial aid for the ANC from some political figures we, in the morally superior first world, consider beyond the pale - for example: $60m from Indonesia's ex-president Suharto a man responsible for repression and atrocities in East Timor and for the financial looting of his own country. The question of whether it is ethically correct to receive money from a regime which denies human rights and commits crimes against humanity in order to fight another regime which also denies human rights and commits crimes against humanity is a complex one - unless, I imagine, one is in the position of having to make such a choice at a time when the good guys are giving aid and comfort to the murderers of your people. In that circumstance the question might well become academic.
As for letting bygones be bygones: suppose after a hectic morning of unexpected and unavoidably long phone calls accompanied by the tears and needs of children with tummy aches followed by a flat tyre and traffic jams you are late, but after finding a place to park your car and then running the 400 metres almost as fast as in your distant school past you reach your place in the gallery at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings where you listen to a white South African secret service agent confessing to the torture and murder of a dozen or so black prisoners, safe in the knowledge that he will be granted amnesty.
You leave the hearings feeling shattered and depressed by what you have heard only to find on reaching your car that in your hurry not to be late you had failed to notice the no parking signs and have been awarded a parking ticket which you can ill afford. You consider the two crimes and the two punishments (torture, murder, amnesty - weighed against careless parking and a fine) and realise that Desmond Tutu through his Truth and Reconciliation Commission has writ large - heinous crime does pay as long as you say you're sorry (though you needn't mean it) - and as a result has destroyed the very basis of law in South Africa no less thoroughly than did the apartheid regime itself. As you see, I have doubts about letting bygones be bygones.
I believe that black South Africans have displayed remarkable forbearance in not wiping out the white population of that country in a display of justified anger. Perhaps black South Africans realise better than I (a distant and comfortable observer) that in the struggle for freedom a small but dedicated number of white South Africans also put their lives at risk (some died) to oppose the apartheid regime and the evil men and women who operated it. Perhaps black South Africans realise better than I that in order to halt the cycle of bloodshed and killing, the victims of oppression, by rejecting revenge and retribution, must once again prove themselves stronger than dictatorships, torturers and murderers and the well dressed, comfortably housed, silent majority who support them.
As for the questioning followed by criticism followed by accusation: I have no doubt they will have their day. My respect for Nelson Mandela will remain, undiminished (I never expected him to be a saint). My assessment of Desmond Tutu, not as favourable as some would expect, might even improve.
This morning, after a walk, a light breakfast and another walk I got home asking myself, "How are complex behaviours (like a spider spinning a web) transmitted from parent to offspring?" I mean how does a baby spider grow up and just know that it has to spin a web in order to catch insects to eat and just know how to spin that web? And does the grown up spider know these things? Is knowledge involved or Is spinning a web an autonomic activity like breathing? In any event how are such complex behaviours passed on from generation to generation? I assumed the method was genetic with evolution and millions of years involved.
I searched online with "how are complex behaviours transmitted genetically" and got this page of articles several of which I will dip into. I chose first the NIH Guide: GENETIC BASIS OF COMPLEX BEHAVIORS and started with the two paragraphs below headed "Research Objectives". I enoy reading this kind of stuff even
though I don't understand it all and have to go back over sections and
look up technical terms in the dictionary and take regular breaks before
my head explodes. We'll never know everything (those who claim to have an answer for everything are liars) but I enjoy wrestling with existance.
Extensive scientific evidence supports a substantial genetic contribution to complex behaviors in humans and animals, but the nature of that contribution is still poorly understood. Recently, preliminary evidence has been presented for the chromosomal localization of genes for learning, emotionality, and abnormal sensorimotor gating in mice. This success provides further impetus to the search for the genes and mechanisms that contribute to normal and abnormal complex behaviors in animals and to complex behaviors of relevance to human health and disease. Through identification of genes underlying complex behavioral traits that are also expressed in mental disorders, further insight into the genetic basis of mental disorders as well as of complex behaviors may be obtained.
To identify specific genes underlying complex behavioral traits, more research is needed on the role of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) as well as of single genes of major effect and the environmental factors that correlate or interact with them. Genetic technologies have progressed rapidly, permitting a parallel expansion of research. Our increasing ability to manipulate the genome in experimental organisms has created new scientific opportunities to understand the development of the genetics of complex behavior.
One important approach in experimental organisms is random mutagenesis followed by screening for impairments in behavioral phenotypes. Another important approach is the generation of null mutations or "knock-outs" using gene targeting technologies with the goal of identification of novel behavioral mutations. Ongoing refinements of transgenic techniques for turning genes on or off in vivo (in specific cell types and/or stages of development) as well as technological refinements in measuring how these genetic alterations affect function in vivo are creating new opportunities to investigate interactions between genes, brain, and behavior. However, progress in behavioral genetic research in animals is impeded by many technical barriers which need to be addressed. For example, in the mouse, genetic mutations are being created in a limited number of strains (those whose embryonic stem (ES) cells can be easily propagated in germ line), some of which have typical, if not aberrant, neurobehavioral phenotypes. The effects of many of the mutations being created are developmentally and regionally nonspecific and therefore difficult to interpret.