Author Archives: Simon Beard

More in common – my visit to my local mosque

Campaigning for the General Election has been suspended twice in recent days, and rightly so. Last Sunday, we paused in memory of Jo Cox, her lifelong work to show that we have more in common and her tragic death, whilst in recent days we ceased campaigning in the wake of Monday’s atrocious terrorist attack on Manchester by those who wish to use death and destruction to drive us apart.

Last Saturday I visited the North West Kent Muslim Association for their public open day, and now feels like a good time to write about that visit. Like many people, I learned something about Islam while at school, but had never been inside a mosque before, and to be honest, I would have struggled to tell people where my local mosque was.

Dartford’s mosque is on Crayford high street, in a converted church building. For the open day, they had set up an exhibition in their community room, focusing on the fundamentals of Islam, the relationship between Islam and Europe (including the many things that we have gained from Islamic cultures, such as coffee drinking) and on Islam and Science.

As both a Liberal and a Christian however, the most interesting parts of the day for me were the discussions with local Muslims. I was surprised to see the mosque had separate entrances for ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ (though we were all welcomed through the same gate this time). However, women at the mosque assured us that this was not a sign of inferiority or subjugation for either sex and that they felt that Islamic law and practice was there to guard their equality rather than undermine it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

We need to talk about existential risk

I am the Lib Dem PPC for Dartford in the upcoming general election, and, like candidates up and down the country, my campaign is being dominated by local issues. This is right and proper, a good MP can make their constituents’ lives better in so many ways, and for most voters, the key issues are always going to be the things that affect them directly.

However, in my day job, I am also a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, an academic institute that studies, and tries to prevent, human extinction level threats. As academic institutes go, we are naturally very keen to produce work that is relevant to policy makers and to communicate what we do as widely as possible, and not just to other academics. However, standing for election makes me acutely aware of just how narrow the circle of people who we communicate with actually is.

Threats to the survival of humanity are real and present, and should any of them come to pass the loss would be incalculably great. We face challenges from dangers that are well known, such as climate change and nuclear war, and others that can appear more speculative, such as global pandemics and Artificial Intelligence. Most importantly, there are things that we can do right now to substantially reduce these risks, if only we could motivate politicians and others to take them into account when making policy.

Many of these are obvious. We need to implement ambitious targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to work with international organisations to solve global problems. We need to achieve global nuclear disarmament as quickly as possible.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 7 Comments

3 facts about assisted dying (or ‘it’s not all about Switzerland you know’)

The debate around legalising assisted dying seems increasingly to centre on the case of suicide tourism; whether people should ‘have to’ travel to clinics in Switzerland where they can legally end their lives. Whilst this is undoubtedly an important trend, it is merely a side show to the real issue and masks three important facts about assisted dying.

1 – Very few people travel to Switzerland to end their lives.

In the last 10 years less than 200 people have travelled to Switzerland to end their lives. That’s quite a lot. However, it’s far fewer than the estimated 500

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

Opinion: Corruption – We can do better than this

The UK is more corrupt than Qatar. That’s not my judgement, but that of the World Bank and their Control of Corruption Index. This places the UK 18th in the world, behind not only Qatar but Iceland, Chile and Liechtenstein.
 
It’s easy to sound jingoistic with this sort of comparison, and I really don’t mean to. So here’s an even more worrying comparison. In 2010, the latest year the World Bank has collated its figures for, the UK received a control of corruption score of +1.48 (on a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Opinion: Opening up the benefits of renewable energy means considering much more than just the size of subsidies

At present for somebody to benefit from the subsidies offered to small scale renewable energy production they must have three things:

1 – Ownership of a property suitable for producing renewable energy

2 – A substantial amount of capital to invest in installing the technology and

3 – The opportunity to invest this capital for 25 years, with no possibility of early pay back unless they sell their house, in which case it is an open question what return they might receive.

Unsurprisingly this leave most people unable to access these benefits, even though many may have something to contribute to renewable energy production, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Opinion: Why I will be making trouble for the census

After voting in elections, I doubt there is any civic duty more important than responding to the decennial census. The information it provides to governments for policy making is vital, and often very revealing. It simply is not mentioned enough, but the last time a census was taken, back in 2001, it was found that the population was over a million people smaller than predicted in 2000, and that estimates of the population growth rate, which fueled national hysteria about immigration in the late 1990s were twice what they should have been.

It therefore makes me very sad that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 9 Comments
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