Tag Archive | stephen hepburn

Where are South Tyneside’s Labour MPs?

This image is a snapshot of an alphabetical list from Hansard, of MPs who voted against the Tory Welfare Bill last night.


You’ll note that South Tyneside’s two Labour MPs, Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck are missing. That’s right, along with most other Labour Party MPs they failed to vote against a bill that the Tories will use to further hobble the welfare state and make the lives of people on low incomes in South Tyneside worse.

You would think MPs were there to vote in the interests of their constituents, but not these two. They voted for party before principle.

After the vote SNP MP Peter Wishart asked the speaker of the house if Labour could be moved to the back benches as they no longer represent an opposition to the Tories. He’s got a point; in the last year or so Labour has consistently voted in support of Tory economic policy.

If I was a Labour Party member in South Tyneside, today I would be asking myself some very serious questions. Is Labour fit for purpose? Does it still represent my values? Why did I waste my time canvassing for two losers who can’t vote to protect fundamental Labour principles?


The gift of sin, in a box

Fast food companies learned a long time ago that if you want to hook customers when they’re young, give them toys. Kids love them, and they’ll want to go back for more.  Not long and they’ll be going not for the toy but for the food.  It’s how they build their brand awareness.

Cynical? Yes.

So it’s no surprise that religious organisations use the same technique.  Organisations  like the evangelical church Samaritan’s Purse, which runs the Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal every year.  They give some poor kids in an awful place some toys, and expose them to their brand. Religion.

Cynical? Yes.

But where the fast food companies only want to sell food, Samaritan’s Purse want to sell everlasting torment, unless the child accepts that Jesus died for their sins 1 thousands of years before they were even born.


Here in South Tyneside though, instead of protecting children from some deeply disturbing ideology, people like Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn and mayor Fay Cunningham positively celebrate proselytising to children using toys.  Toys in boxes often gifted by other children.  Maybe they’ve fallen for the attractive concept of putting a smile on the faces of unhappy children.  But it’s the idea that goes with the smile that should be worrying.

Sin. A made up condition for which they sell the made up cure.

So here are South Tyneside’s politicians, smiling for the camera, celebrating gifting shoeboxes with toys, guilt and sin.

Watch the video. It’s sickening.

Missing inaction

One of our MPs is missing

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the petition for the Drop The Bill motion to be debated in Parliament.  Despite the petition breaching the 100,000 limit for the motion to be discussed, the committee deciding on Commons business, loaded with Tories and Lib Dems, refused to let the motion pass into debate.  There’s democracy for you, and a clear illustration that the government e-Petitions scheme favours public motions which fit the Tory agenda.

So the battle to save the NHS continues.  Next up, was last week’s debate on the motion to publish a report into the risks the NHS is facing as a result of Lansley’s slash and burn plans.  Rather than publish the risk report, which is usual, the government has decided to keep it secret.  That should be enough to get the cynic gland pumping away.

This debate to demand the publishing of the risk report was an opportunity for the opposition to get behind the defence of the NHS and build a momentum for the fight.  The motion to publish the report was beaten by the government 299 to 246.  That’s not a surprise.  The usual opposition faces were there; Andy Burnham, Ed Miliband, Diane Abbott and Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.  Green MP Caroline Lucas was there too.  It wasn’t until later though, that I found out through the excellent 38 Degrees, that one local MP was missing:

no vote from David Miliband

where's Mili?

That’s right, South Shields MP David Miliband didn’t vote, which was confirmed by Hansard.

It’s disappointing that a Labour MP, working in a constituency like South Shields with more than it’s fair share of poverty, one which would feel the full force of Lansley’s demolition of the NHS, couldn’t turn up on behalf of the people who voted him in.

Letter: Religion not for the Baccalaureate

Here’s another letter to the Shields Gazette in response to an article covering Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn’s Early Day Motion (1375) which calls for Religious Education to be included in the English Baccalaureate.  It’s not ‘new’ news, as the EDM is several months old and the number of supporting signatories is pathetic. It is concerning that any MPs would support such a stupid motion, and particularly as a supporter of the Green Party, that the only Green MP Caroline Lucas has put her name to another EDM which promotes faith before fact.

Your article, headlined ‘MP fights to keep religion in schools’ (Tuesday 19 April), implies that as Religious Education is not included in the English Baccalaureate, RE is being eliminated from education. However, RE is still available on the curriculum for students to select, which is much-removed from the misleading headline implication that religion is being removed from schools.

The English Baccalaureate reflects the key qualifications that universities, particularly those in the Russell group, are looking for when deciding on student admissions. The Baccalaureate is simply a recognition of the real-world expectations of the universities, realised as a recommended curriculum for students wishing to go on to university education.

It astounds me though, that any MP would want to make ‘RE an educational priority’ when surely reality based subjects like mathematics, science and english, should be the real priorities, not the philosophical ditherings of religions over the ages.

The fact that the campaign Mr Hepburn sponsored along with Caroline Lucas, Peter Bottomley, Tony Cunningham and Jim Dobbin is backed by a Christian evangelical organisation rather than an educational one is indeed worrying.

There’s no harm in learning about religions, but forcing it on students who are busy preparing the groundwork for a future career is not only irrational and an unfair added pressure, but extremely unethical when backed by religious groups intent on recruiting more souls for their supernatural super-being.

And frankly, do they really want to bore students to death with irrelevant myths and mumbo-jumbo?

Hepburn for homeopathic horseshit peddlers

Looking at skeptical-voter.org it seems that Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to rational thought.  He’s voted in support of keeping the current abortion time limit at 24 weeks in line with the scientific and medical consensus.  To his credit he’s also supported Early Day Motion (EDM) 377 noting the achievements if Charles Darwin (to be honest a nonsense EDM) and more usefully signed EDM 423 calling for reform of English libel laws.

There’s a but though.  A very big but.  Okay, two.

Note: Before I go further, I’m keenly aware that EDMs are like petitions; they are easy to sign and are mostly pretty harmless, as there is little chance they will ever make law.  However, they are an indication into the thinking of the signing MP and where their allegiances lie.

Back to the bad bits.

First up: Mr Hepburn signed EDM 742, calling for religious based adoption agencies to be excluded from the Equality Act to allow these agencies to discriminate against gay couples.  To clarify, he put his name to an early day motion calling for homophobic bigotry practised by religious agencies to be legislatively normalised.  That’s right people of Jarrow and Hebburn – your MP thought it was fine for religions to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

In 2007, Mr Hepburn signed EDM 1240, a kind of EDM for Ignorance – calling for the positive recognition of NHS homeopathic hospitals:

“That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.”

If you didn’t know, homeopathy is where an active ingredient in a drug is repeatedly diluted to the point where none of the original drug is left, but the water magically holds the ‘memory’ of the active ingredient. The theory is that the active ingredient memory in the water pills will cure the patient but without any nasty side effects. Basically, it’s bunkum, violates several fundamental principles of science, without a shred of credible evidence to support it.

Earlier this year a House of Commons committee inquiry into homeopathy concluded that homeopathy was no more effective than placebos.  That’s right, Hepburn signed up to backing hospitals whose treatments are based on unproven assertions and condemned by authorities such as the World Health Organisation.  There’s a concern that people suffering illnesses may become worse or die because of relying on unproven and unregulated treatments.  That means the money spent on these hospitals he supported wasn’t just wasted, but contributed to ill health and death.  Frankly, Hepburn might as well have signed his support for prayer hospitals or crystal healing.

It’s worrying that an MP would support such woo.

Don’t take my word for it, Dara O’Briain sums up homeopathic woo (hat tip to the The Skeptic) much better than I can.

Operation Christmas Child: goodwill at a price

Every year local newspaper the Shields Gazette press covers the voluntary work of local Christian organisations preparing shoeboxes, filling them with gifts for children in impoverished areas around the world.

It’s represented in the media as altruism in action, and local politicians, like Coun John Anglin and Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn, attach their names to the charitable endeavour.

However, all isn’t as it seems.  OCC is a campaign run by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organisation run by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.  Samaritan’s Purse shows pictures of smiling children with their shoeboxes, with the banner ‘The power of a simple gift’.  The real power of the ‘simple gift’ for Samaritan’s Purse is not just the toys packed with compassion, it’s the additional extra that Samaritan’s Purse adds.  Christian literature.

That’s right, the main purpose of OCC is to gain converts to Christianity at the point of a gift.  I think bribing children is sick, and it’s unfortunate that so many good people in South Tyneside are colluding in this campaign.

I’m sure that most of the people involved in OCC genuinely want to put smiles on faces around the world.

Our politicians should know better.  Instead of supporting a cynical missionary strategy, perhaps next year they should support genuine giving charities, like Oxfam, which offer real tangible help, not prayer and conversion.

Letter: Hepburn’s gassing on coal

Stephen Hepburn’s calls for coal gasification to be pursued “until renewables are sufficiently advanced” (King coal can rule again, 20 September) incorrectly implies that renewable technologies are not up to the task of powering the UK.

The reality is that a diverse range of renewables are available – here and now – and well ahead of the drawing-board status of new nuclear and coal technologies.

Unfortunately, renewables suffer from an acute lack of political will and investment in both the technology and infrastructure required for a green energy future.

The coal technologies championed by Mr Hepburn are years away and will not satisfy the urgent need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

We need significant policy change and the necessary signals from government to encourage investment to kick-start a renewable industrial revolution for a sustainable, safe and secure energy future.