Death and destructive lifestyles
A row over lunch has failed to sort out Poland’s opposition to a European day against the death penalty.
There are still plans for a big conference in Lisbon against the death penalty but so far there are no signs of a European Union statement to go with it. Twenty-six other justice ministers failed to persuade the Polish government round to their point of view.
Bodies like the European Union regularly hold days for this, that and the other, and mostly they are pretty uncontroversial.
The Poles don’t have the death penalty of course, and they say the day is pointless as no European country has the death penalty. But their bigger point is their insistence that it would be far more worthwhile to have a day that is opposed to "all violations of the human right to life". They accuse the EU of promoting "abortion, destructive lifestyles and euthanasia".
The British justice minister and former foreign secretary Jack Straw seemed almost glad to be back in Brussels when he met the British press after this lunch. He was adamant that to hold a day against the death penalty was right and went on to praise the Portuguese, who hold the presidency, for forcing the issue.
He also said that Portugal was the first European country to abolish the death penalty, back in the 19th Century, and that this had held even during the years of dictatorship.
You really do learn something every day in this job.
He also said: "I think the death penalty is something people have intense debates about, but abortion and euthanasia are seen as a private matter. I will make this comment about United States politics: I do not wish the United Kingdom to end up in a position where issues of conscience become a big party and partisan issue."
Who’s right, Jack or the Poles?
Listen to the full answer here... the bit missing in the middle is my interjection “Why?” which the microphone didn’t pick up.