Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bad Faith Award 2011: it's Dorries by a landslide

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We'll be covering this properly in our January issue, which we're producing this week, but it would seem strange not to acknowledge that the poll for our Bad Faith Award, which we present annually to the year's leading enemy of reason, closed last night and that the winner is ... (drumroll, etc) .... the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries by a landslide.

It's been a fascinating race for the award this year, as for the first time in its five-year history one of the candidates took note of the fact that they had been nominated and began a campaign to ensure they emerged victorious. As many of you already know, Dorries, who was nominated on account of her twin attempts to change the law on abortion counselling and introduce abstinence-based sex education for girls, noticed she was in the running shortly after we opened the poll, and published a post on her infamous blog ("70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent fact") stating that "it's scary to think how many people out there hold such extreme views dressed up as acceptable in an online glossy magazine". Those "extreme views", in case you're wondering, were those of a "humanist" who had "recently commented that, not only did he believe that abortion was acceptable right up to the moment of birth, but that termination of a child's life was acceptable up until the point where the child had the ability to reason, understand and justify life".

This post attracted plenty of attention online, and Dorries, who had also taken the time to describe New Humanist as an "an anti-faith, anti-religious cult" in an interview with a local newspaper in her Bedfordshire constituency, quickly soared into the lead in our poll with over a thousand votes (having had just a few hundred prior to blogging about it herself). Unsurprisingly, many people (a good example being this post at Ministry of Truth) called on Dorries to provide a source for the "humanist" who had supposedly "recently" advocated infanticide, and justify why she had denounced humanists in general by means of this unsupported assertion, and she duly obliged by posting a second blog post, entitled "Humanists (2)" (thankfully she hasn't, as yet, ruined the franchise by releasing a third installment). In this post, the humanist who had "recently commented" on infanticide had become the Australian philosopher Peter Singer in the late 1970s, and Dorries cherrypicked some quotes from his substantial and complex work around animal rights and the suffering of severely disabled children to back up her assertion that humanists are in favour of abortion after birth. Dorries did not link directly to Singer's own work, or provide citations from his books, but instead offered a link to an evangelical website which had used the quotes.

By this point, Dorries had gained an unassailable lead in the poll, and her opponents, who included such heavyweights as the Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips and the Islamic fundamentalist Anjem Choudary, were left chasing shadows. By the time the poll closed yesterday, Dorries had gained 2,038 of a total 3,857 votes – a stunning 52.84 per cent share of the vote.

So, we can formally announce that Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, is the winner, by landslide, of the 2011 New Humanist Bad Faith Award. At this point it's well worth noting that, while there was plenty of enjoyment to be had observing Dorries' outrage at her nomination, and picking apart her sweeping generalisations about humanists (which, as I suggested at the time, in my view betrayed, in spite of Dorries' own claim to be pro-choice, her lack of tolerance for anyone who dares to speak out against the anti-abortion lobby), there is a serious point behind her victory in this poll. While it is not, obviously, a scientific representation of national opinion, the fact that more than half of people voting in this poll opted for Dorries serves to highlight the weight of opposition that exists to the attacks she has mounted on abortion rights and comprehensive sex education. With her bill on abstinence due for a second reading in Parliament next year, Dorries will certainly be hearing more from her opponents in the coming months.

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