UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from John Lloyd:

England’s inevitable gay union

Earlier this week the British Parliament housed a restrained, sometimes mawkish and at times moving debate on gay marriage – and the bill passed the House of Commons, 400 to 175. The story was not that it passed, which had been expected. Instead, it was the split in the major governing party, the Conservatives, more of whose 303 MPs voted against the bill than for it. (Conservatives voted 136 in favor of the bill, with 127 voting no, five abstentions and 35 not registering a vote.) Prime Minister David Cameron, still intent on ensuring that his party is liberal as well as conservative, was emollient and understanding of those against the measure but presented his support in the context of a “strong belief in marriage. … It’s about equality but also about making our society stronger.”

His remarks signal that while there is division on the right over gay marriage – at least in Europe –and that while prejudice and bigotry still exist, the serious debate is between contending notions of conservatism. For liberals like Cameron and many in his party, gay marriage extends the benediction of an ancient rite upon modern couples, drawing them into the rituals of homebuilding and long-term affection that have so far been claimed as a heterosexual monopoly. For opponents, marriage must be just such a monopoly, since it is a union of one man and one woman for the purpose (if not always the practice) of procreation, of continuing society’s values in particular and the human race in general.

On values, Britain – in this case, England – is an anomaly: The Church of England is established, the Queen is its head, bishops sit in Parliament’s second chamber, the House of Lords, and the country’s canon law is part of the law of the land. Yet the country is largely irreligious as far as observance goes – the churches are mostly empty – priests and bishops are largely unattended and polls show a sizable majority in support of gay unions of any kind. Indeed, it is only if religion is put in a subaltern position to secular values like equality, fairness, inclusion and the right to pursue happiness that gay marriage could be approved.

That the approval has happened is seismic – not just because it extends rights to a large group of men and women who have suffered discrimination and worse for centuries but also because it signals yet again the primacy of values that are not just secular but are the fruit of the cultural struggles that began in the 1960s. At the time, those causes were viewed with horror by conservatives of every stripe. Today their acceptance is seen as a mark of civilized behavior. 

from Photographers' Blog:

NFL touchdown in London

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By Suzanne Plunkett

British sports fans are a serious bunch. When it comes to football (they never call it soccer), many would rather lose their home than miss their team score a winning goal. Club allegiance is often demonstrated with tribal passion - influencing tattoos, clothing and even choice of marital partners.

When American football makes a rare appearance in London, it's somewhat of a surprise to see the seriousness of the sport replaced with a more frivolous obsession: cheerleaders.

from Left field:

Strauss’s side still not England’s best

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By John Mehaffey

According to International Cricket Council statistician David Kendix's calculations, three England sides before Andrew Strauss's present team would have topped the test world rankings too if the current format had existed.

In reverse chronological order, they are Mike Brearley's side of 1979-80, Ray Illingworth's 1970-3 team and the 1955-9 squad led first by Len Hutton then Peter May.

from Left field:

ICC name best test team of all time. Right or wrong?

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The ICC has unveiled the best test team of all time as voted for by fans on the governing body's website. The ICC offered a shortlist to choose from.

Here it is:

Virender Sehwag

Sunil Gavaskar

Donald Bradman

Sachin Tendulkar

Brian Lara

Kapil Dev

Adam Gilchrist (wk)

Shane Warne

Wasim Akram

Curtly Ambrose

Glenn McGrath

Is it a bit 1980s focused? No Englishmen either but maybe that is not a big shock. Sehwag probably the biggest surprise.

from Photographers' Blog:

A Royal prayer to the weather gods

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Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011.   REUTERS/Phil Noble

It can't be very often that I have the same thought as Prince William, or indeed his fiance Kate Middleton. But after today's visit to Darwen in northern England I'm sure there was at least one point, as the rain bounced off the pavement, that we were all thinking the same thing; I hope the weather is better than this on the 29th!

It was billed as the couples last public engagement before the big day and myself and Reuters colleague Darren Staples had arrived at our separate venues early in the morning to set up and claim our positions.

from FaithWorld:

400-year-old King James Bible found in English church

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king james bible 1611

(Frontispiece to the King James' Bible, 1611)

A printing error helped a 12th century English village church realise it owned a rare 400-year-old King James Bible, the book that changed the world. The edition that had been sitting on a ledge in the pretty Anglican church in Wiltshire, central England for the past 150 years, barely touched and much less read, is one of only a handful that still exists.

Although a sign above the book indicated it dated back to 1611, it was only after the parochial church council of St Laurence in Hilmarton decided to get it authenticated during the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible that they made their discovery.

from Left field:

Cricket World Cup — live

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Join us for coverage of the revamped Cricket World Cup on the subcontinent. Follow all the drama here with regular posts and some of the best photographs around. Comments welcome!

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Does anybody actually care who captains England?

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/Last week, when Chelsea held a news conference to preview their Champions League match against FC Copenhagen, manager Carlo Ancelotti spent the first 20 minutes fielding questions about John Terry's re-instatement as England captain.

The Chelsea press officer finally stepped in in an attempt to steer the subject back to club football by asking if there were any questions about the forthcoming match or for fellow guest, defender Branislav Ivanovic.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Scotland on their way back to London, but England match must wait a while

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tartanScotland's soccer team return to London for the first time since 1999 at the end of this month -- but they won't be playing England at Wembley.

Instead they will face five-times world champions Brazil in a high profile friendly at the Emirates Stadium which should be filled close to its 60,000 capacity.

from Left field:

Don’t discount Ireland for the Six Nations

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RUGBY-NATIONS/
By James Illingworth

The 2011 Six Nations kicks off shortly in Cardiff with much of the pre-tournament hype suggesting a two-horse race between France and England.

England's favourites tag among English bookmakers looks unjustified if it is based on one decent performance in November against Australia, with the 2010 grand slam winners France surely still the team to beat.

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