Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lib Dems on tour and other stories!

I have had a hectic couple of weeks, with little time for blogging - but it's all gone quiet now so time to catch up. Before the trip to Belfast for Liberal International Congress I was invited to the British Legion Parliamentary Reception. It was over populated with Tories so it was good to see Lib Dem MPs Jeremy Browne (my hero!), Andrew George, David Heath and Don Foster there. I was amused when Jeremy introduced me to someone as a "top Lib Dem Blogger with a blog full of lively opinions, frequently expressed!" (now you know why he is top of my heroes list!) Andrew George commented that either I was stalking him or vice versa as I had bumped into him the day before when attending the launch of a Rainer report on young people and debt (a very important report which I will return to).

Later that afternoon I attended the launch of the Lib Dem friends of Sri Lanka, hosted by Lord Dholakia and addressed by Ed Davey, Andrew George (!), Tom Brake, Don Foster and Simon Hughes. My children (who are half Sri Lankan) also came which I am proud to say resulted in Lara (far right in the pic) joining the committee.

And then off to Belfast for Liberal International Congress. As I have already posted the highlight had to be hearing Morgan Tvsangarai, but I was also very moved by Maung Maung, General Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions in Burma. A summary of his speech is here. What moved me most was when he was asked if he still lived in Burma. No, he had to flee in 1988 and he hadn't seen his wife or son since. He said it so matteroffactly, someone else who challenged me about how much I would be prepared to sacrifice in the fight for freedom.

There is a full report of the Congress here. And eventually I will get round to putting up all (well nearly all!) the pix here.

The Lib Dem contingency consisted of Jo Hayes, Julie Smith, Robert Woodthorpe-Browne, Phil Bennion, Chris le Breton, Jonathan Fryer and Simon Hughes. We were also joined by Ed Davey for a reception at Stormount on Friday evening, followed by a team Lib Dem meal and enjoying the delights of Fibber Magees live traditional music (even if it was so crowded it felt like being on the Northern Line!).

Another highlight for me was meeting Rosie Odinga, daughter of Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya - who described her relationship to her father as a "biological technicality"! Rosie is not only an incredibly inspirational woman, she is also a lot of fun and we had a great evening dancing in Morrison's in Belfast Saturday night.
Having a meeting in Belfast on Monday I took the bus down to Newcastle and went walking in the beautiful Mourne mountains on Sunday. The weather was glorious and the walk up Slieve Donnard spectacular..........tho seeing all the people in their proper walking boots with sticks, made me feel rather daft in my Dune pumps - carrying a handbag! Having dropped and broken my son's camera the night before I took some lovely pix on my phone, tho all to no avail since I then went and lost it :-(

On Tuesday I was part of an "expert" panel speaking at a House Magazine "Westminster Briefing" event. I had received a flyer to this event looking at financial inclusion some time ago, reading down the list of prestigious speakers - James Plaskitt MP, Brian Pomeroy (Financial Inclusion Taskforce), Angela Knight (BBA), thinking "hmmm this looks interesting" I was shocked to see Linda Jack with "invited" in brackets after my name! So, it was a great honour to be regarded as an expert and a great opportunity to bang the drum about an issue about which I feel passionately.
The rest of the week it has to be said, in contrast, has been rather like an episode of Eastenders..........but of course, on that, my lips have to be sealed!!!

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