New Statesman events at Lib Dem conference 2013

The New Statesman will be heading to Glasgow to host a series of events and discussions during the Liberal Democrats autumn conference 2013.

The New Statesman will be at the Liberal Democrats autumn conference this year in Glasgow to host a series of events and round table discussions. Highlights include an "In conversation" session with Minister of State for Care and Support, and Lib Dem MP, Normal Lamb at the Glasgow Science Centre tomorrow evening, a discussions on aid and advocacy between Menzies Campbell, Simon Hughes and Medical Aid for Palestinians Chief Executive Tony Laurance on Monday afternoon and a talk with David Laws, Minister for Cabinet Office and Schools on Monday evening. All events are free to attend and open to the public.

There will also be a session with Lib Dem president Tim Farron, a possible future leader of the party, whose comments on Ed Miliband in this week's New Statesman were widely regarded as proof that coalition with Labour rather than the Tories after 2015 remains a distinct possibility. (The correlative came from Jeremy Browne in the same issue, a Lib Dem with less polite things to say about the Labour leader). 

A full list of NS events at the Lib Dem conference can be found below:

Liberal Democrat Part Conference 2013

 

Sunday the 15th of September 

 

 

Integration in an era of competition: Is it possible? 

Speakers: Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP

                  Chris Hopskin, Chief Executive, Foundation Trust Network

                  Professor Clare Bambra, Durham University 

Location: Clyde Suite, Glasgow Science Centre  

Time: 13:30-14:30 

 

What next for the criminal justice system?

Speakers: Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice,

                  Steve Gillan, General Secretary, POA

                  Jerry Petherick, Managing Director – Custodial & Detention

                  - Services, G4S 

                  Tania Bassett, Napo Press, Parliament and Campaigns Officer

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre      

Time: 13:00-14:00  

Smart Grids: Is this the way of selling low carbon policy to skeptics?

Speakers: Stephen Gilbert MP, PPS to Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP

                  - Secretary of State for Climate Change  

                  Jim Sutherland, Scottish Power Energy Networks 

                  Dr. Hongjain Sun, Lecturer in Smart Grids, Durham University 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre  

Time: 14:00-15:00

Norman Lamb MP in conversation with New Statesman

Speaker: Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre  

Time: 18:15-19:15  

Monday the 16th of September

 

Home Front: the battle for a sustainable housing Market

(invite only)

Speakers: Rt. Hon Don Foster MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the

                  - Department of Communities and Local Goverment         

                  Stephen Gilbert MP, PPS to the Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP,

                  - Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change      

                  Lord Shipley          

                  Annette Brooke MP          

                  Lord Newby, Deputy Chief Whip 

Location: Clyde Suite, Glasgow Science Centre   

Time: 8.30-10:00

Innovation, what does the NHS need to do?

Speakers: Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support  

                  David Worskett, Chief Executive, NHS Partners Network

                  Professor Clare Bambra, Durham University 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

Time: 10.30-11.30

Can aid be effective without advocacy? 

Speakers: Rt. Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP

                  Rt. Hon Simon Hughes MP

                  Tony Laurance, Chief Executive, Medical Aid for Palestinians 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre   

Time: 13:00-14:00

Endgames: The Lib Dems in the final phase of the coalition  

Speakers: Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats  

                  Tavish Scott MSP      

                  Akash Paun, Fellow, Institute of Government  

                  Olly Grender, Deputy Chair, General Election Capmaign

Location:Clyde Suite, Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

Time: 18:00-19:00

David Laws MP in conversation with the New Statesman

Speaker: Rt Hon David Laws MP, Minister of State for Cabinet Office and Schools

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

Time: 19:00-20:00

Tuesday the 17th September

 

Will competition and choice open up the banking sector?

Speakers: Lord Newby, Government Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Chief

                  - Whip, Treasury Spokesperson in the House of Lords

                  Adrian Kamellard, Chief Executive, Payments Council

                  Jeff Salway, Freelance Journalist      

                  Richard Lloyd, Executive Director, Which?

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre 

Time: 13:00-14:00    

Why invest in UK life sciences?

Speakers: Dr Julian Huppert MP

                  Andrew Powrie-Smith, Director ABPI, Scotland 

                  Mike Farrar, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre   

Time: 13:00-14:00

Tim Farron MP in conversation with New Statesman

Speaker: Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre 

Time: 18:15-19:15   

Is a cap on immigration a cap on growth?

Speakers: Rt. Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State, Business

                  - Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade  

                  Mr. Neil Stevenson, Brand Executive Director, ACCA       

                  Dr. Adam Marshall, British Chamber of Commerce        

                  Professor Christian Dustmann

Location: Clyde Suite, Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre        

Time: 19:00-20:00

Nick Clegg's speech will close the conference on Wednesday 18 September. Photograph: Getty Images.
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A new German law wants to force mothers to reveal their child’s biological father

The so-called “milkmen’s kids law” would seek protection for men who feel they have been duped into raising children they believe are not biologically theirs – at the expense of women’s rights.

The German press call them “Kuckuckskinder”, which translates literally as “cuckoo children” – parasite offspring being raised by an unsuspecting innocent, alien creatures growing fat at the expense of the host species’ own kind. The British press have opted for the more Benny Hill-esque “milkmen’s kids”, prompting images of bored Seventies housewives answering the door in negligées before inviting Robin Asquith lookalikes up to their suburban boudoirs. Nine months later their henpecked husbands are presented with bawling brats and the poor sods remain none the wiser.

Neither image is particularly flattering to the children involved, but then who cares about them? This is a story about men, women and the redressing of a legal – or is it biological? – injustice. The children are incidental.

This week German Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced a proposal aimed at to providing greater legal protection for “Scheinväter” – men who are duped into raising children whom they falsely believe to be biologically theirs. This is in response to a 2015 case in which Germany’s highest court ruled that a woman who had told her ex-husband that her child may have been conceived with another man could not be compelled to name the latter. This would, the court decided, be an infringement of the woman’s right to privacy. Nonetheless, the decision was seen to highlight the need for further legislation to clarify and strengthen the position of the Scheinvater.

Maas’ proposal, announced on Monday, examines the problem carefully and sensitively before merrily throwing a woman’s right to privacy out of the window. It would compel a woman to name every man she had sexual intercourse with during the time when her child may have been conceived. She would only have the right to remain silent in cases should there be serious reasons for her not to name the biological father (it would be for the court to decide whether a woman’s reasons were serious enough). It is not yet clear what form of punishment a woman would face were she not to name names (I’m thinking a scarlet letter would be in keeping with the classy, retro “man who was present at the moment of conception” wording). In cases where it did transpire that another man was a child’s biological father, he would be obliged to pay compensation to the man “duped” into supporting the child for up to two years.

It is not clear what happens thereafter. Perhaps the two men shake hands, pat each other on the back, maybe even share a beer or two. It is, after all, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement, a transaction which takes place over the heads of both mother and child once the latter’s paternity has been established. The “true” father compensates the “false” one for having maintained his property in his absence. In some cases there may be bitterness and resentment but perhaps in others one will witness a kind of honourable partnership. You can’t trust women, but DNA tests, money and your fellow man won’t let you down.

Even if it achieves nothing else, this proposal brings us right back to the heart of what patriarchy is all about: paternity and ownership. In April this year a German court ruled that men cannot be forced to take paternity tests by children who suspect them of being their fathers. It has to be their decision. Women, meanwhile, can only access abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy, and even then counselling is mandatory (thereafter the approval of two doctors is required, similar to in the UK). One class of people can be forced to gestate and give birth; another can’t even be forced to take a DNA test. One class of people can be compelled to name any man whose sperm may have ventured beyond their cervix; another is allowed to have a body whose business is entirely its own. And yes, one can argue that forcing men to pay money for the raising of children evens up the score. Men have always argued that, but they’re wrong.

Individual men (sometimes) pay for the raising of individual children because the system we call patriarchy has chosen to make fatherhood about individual ownership. Women have little choice but to go along with this as long as men exploit our labour, restrict our access to material resources and threaten us with violence. We live in a world in which it is almost universally assumed that women “owe” individual men the reassurance that it was their precious sperm that impregnated us, lest we put ourselves and our offspring at risk of poverty and isolation. Rarely do any of us dare to protest. We pretend it is a fair deal, even that reproductive differences barely affect our lives at all. But the sex binary – the fact that sperm is not egg and egg is not sperm – affects all of us.

The original 2015 ruling got it right. The male demand for reassurance regarding paternity is an infringement of a woman’s right to privacy. Moreover, it is important to see this in the context of all the other ways in which men have sought to limit women’s sexual activity, freedom of movement and financial independence in order to ensure that children are truly “theirs”.  Anxiety over paternity is fundamentally linked to anxiety over female sexuality and women’s access to public space. Yet unless all women are kept under lock and key at all times, men will never, ever have the reassurance they crave. Even then, the abstract knowledge that you are the only person to have had the opportunity to impregnate a particular woman cannot rival the physical knowledge of gestation.

We have had millennia of pandering to men’s existential anxieties and treating all matters related to human reproduction, from sex to childbirth, as exceptional cases meaning women cannot have full human rights. Isn’t it about time we tried something new? How about understanding fatherhood not as winning gold in an Olympic sperm race, but as a contract endlessly renewed?

What each of us receives when a child is born is not a biological entity to do with as we choose. It is a relationship, with all of its complexities and risks. It is something worth contributing to and fighting for. Truly, if a man cannot understand that, then any money wasted on a Kuckuckskind – a living, breathing child he could get to know – has got to be the least of his worries. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.