Official Letter

17 June 2009

So June has been a busy time for me. The world of Strategic Planning (town planning) in London is swift moving, relatively, and I have been busy doing lots of talking, listening, finding-out and writing. I have spent a lot of time writing official letters. It’s a time-consuming and complicated business.

However, following my tweets today I happened to stumble across a link to this (slightly rude, beware) letter which is, apparently, real. If only my official letters could be be as exciting as this!

moscow

It reads (click image to open full size):

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life, and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.

Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr
H.M. Ambassador, Moscow


European Election Day

4 June 2009

This morning I left home and went to work via my local polling station
in order to vote in the European elections. There are no local elections
this year. I hadn’t had a single European focused leaflet through the
door from any of the main parties. The Lib Dems sent something but it
was only focused on them cutting council tax: perhaps they forgot that
it’s European and not local elections here.

I did get leaflets from the greens, christians, socialists, christians
and an independent. The first leaflet I got, however, was from the BNP.
Now I cannot go into the detail of who I voted for, or why, but I did
change the habit of my voting life.

Of course people have rather varied feelings about the European
parliament, but one thing is clear: there are things we need to work
together on. We live in a globalised world with global problems and
often tense relationships, we cannot always stand alone. Tomorrow, it
seems to have been forgotten in the UK, is World Environment Day:
there’s a great example of where we need to work together and, if we are
to get anywhere in tackling climate change, it perhaps cannot always be
by voluntary global discourse. And, we shouldn’t forget, it is only 60
years ago that the second world war started in Europe. As my old German
friend’s father used to say, if we’re talking at least we’re not
fighting.

Importantly, I did vote, and urge everyone who can to do so, regardless
of who for. Apathy is, although arguably more understandable than normal
right now, one of the biggest risks to democracy. Even if you cannot
stand to vote for anyone it’s better to go to the polling station and
spoil your paper to register disapproval over apathy.


Bull! Lies!

13 May 2009

The last week hasn’t been a good one for British politicians. The expense scandal, whether claiming for bath plugs and feather dusters, second homes, moat clearing, swimming pools or porn, the Daily Telegraph has been ‘exposing’ the lies and bullsh*t of politicians claiming expenses within, or beyond, creating plenty of public anger.

Not a good week for politicians, especially when the European and local elections are coming up in June. Norman Tebbit even advised the public to protest by not voting for the big parties in the European elections.

Which is why I was interested to see the juxtaposition of a poster saying “make sure nothing stops you voting” with two posters for a mobile phone company in Camden Town station pronouncing simply BULL and LIES.

DSC00397

Of course, one of the biggest risks of the expenses story is disillusionment with politicians in general, politicians of all parties, and voter apathy caused by lies and bull. But voting is an essential way of exercising you democratic right – so maybe we shouldn’t let lies, bull, or anything else, stop us doing so on Thursday 4 June.


28 days… later

12 June 2008

I should admit I have, probably purposely, not followed the debate over 42 days very closely. I think that the phrase ‘civil liverties’ is used too much and its use in this context made me want to keep away from the debate. There’s a fine line when using that phrase which is often ignored (I’m not necessarily saying crossed). I’ve particularly kept out because of the complexities around when such a measure will apply or not and I didn’t believe I understood the issue enough to form an opinion.

However, having heard yesterday that the government won in the House of Commons I was most interested today, not to read opinion pieces or articles (no matter whether I agree with them or not), but to read a speech made by Diane Abbott, for whom I have a good deal of respect. She raises some very valid points.

I came into politics because of my concern about the relationship of the state to communities that are marginalised and suspected. It is easy to stand up for the civil liberties of our friends or of people in our trade union, but it is not easy to stand up for the civil liberties of people who are unpopular, suspected and look suspicious—people the tabloids print a horror story about every day.

However, it is a test of parliament that we are willing to stand up for the civil liberties of the marginalised, the suspect and the unpopular.

I came into politics about those issues, and I believe that if there is any content at all in ministers’ constant speeches about community cohesion we must offer every part of our community not just the appearance but the reality of justice and equality before the law.

She finished her speech talking about the popularity of the 42 day clause and how that affects parliament, saying “But if we as a parliament cannot stand up on this issue, and if people from our different ethnic communities cannot come here and genuinely reflect their fears and concerns, what is parliament for?”. This reminds me of a debate which I recall, but cannot find the speech for, in respect of equalising the age of consent where it was said that it’s not the job or parliament to do what is popular, it’s the job of parliament to do what is right…

So, no matter what I may or may not think about 42 days detention, Diane Abbott is absolutely right – parliament is about doing what’s right, understanding the concerns and issues, not letting a popular argument, which she believes has not been evidentially and robustly justified, to simply pass through.

In less exciting news I am tucked up in bed with a summer cold, which is really no fun at all.


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