Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lib Dem Bloggers of the Year...........

Phew......never one to regard a deadline as anything other than something to think about with 15 minutes to go.........I have surpassed myself and got my nominations in with 33 minutes to spare, am I impressed with myself???? Am I!

Who did I nominate..........(?) hmmmm, that's to be winkled out of me over a J2O at conference (!), but suffice to say I went through the list and picked out those I enjoy reading but aren't the usual suspects, given that my top of the listers will have already been nominated by others.

I think it is great that we have seen a veritable explosion of new bloggers over this year, Alasdair, Irfan, Steph, Helen to name but four. I hope this trend continues, sorry to sound like a broken record, but I hope this time next year we will reflect our diversity more accurately.

In the mean time.........more sloppy kisses to one and all!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sloppy kisses all round..............especially for Alex Wilcock!

Congratulations to everyone on Iain Dale's list, I was especially pleased to see that our top individual blogger was Alix and to see that so many more women are taking this blogging lark more seriously! That is not to denigrate you guys (would I????) but it has always frustrated me that the gender imbalance in Westminster is reflected in the blogosphere. So especial congrats to Steph Ashley as one of the newcomers who has done so well.

And........sloppy kisses to all those of you who voted for me.........without prompting too! I might lobby and canvass hard to be elected to this and that (er.....European Parliament, FPC et al) but I have a blockage about my blog, probably because it is more personal.

Anyway, a tad late, I also finally get round to saying which of my posts I am most proud of. Actually these are the ones which have been recommended by others. If a post ends up in the golden dozen by virtue of the number of clicks (or the outrageousness of its title!) that is cool, but I am always so much prouder when one of my blogging heroes recommends something I have penned.

So - most proud must have been when sparring partner extraordinaire Alex Wilcock described my post on the Lisbon Treaty vote as "the most sensible I've read on the issue" ......... Alex, describing me as sensible, what an accolade! And I still chuckle to myself about Alex's fury when I did this post about gender and the by elections and then went off to Belfast!

The one and only Burbler has been kind enough to describe this post on multiculturalism as a "blinder" - thanks Paul!

And the awesome Stephen Tall has kindly nominated some of my blogs in the "ones you may have missed" from time to time.

If I may be permitted my own indulgence, I quite liked this one on locking up our children, it is one of the things I feel most passionately about.

And thanks to you all for giving me a nice warm glow yesterday, having had a difficult few weeks it was much appreciated!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conference ...... what's the point?

I have just voted in the LDV poll. Of course I would have preferred a poll that allowed us to prioritise, I also enjoy the socialising, fringes, general buzz..........but of course the highlight for me is the debate. Despite my occasional :-) moanings about stuff, I am rather proud that we do still have a process in policy making that involves the membership. If political activism is about anything it is surely based on the premise that collectively we can achieve more than we can on our own. When we lose the link with our grass roots to my mind we not only lose our legitimacy we also make worse decisions. I know there are some in our parliamentary party (because I have heard them) who would rather cut the feckless activists out of the process altogether, life would be so much easier wouldn't it. Yes, but we would fast turn into a think tank of the great and the good who never go near the great unwashed but presume to have something to say on how to make their lives better.....oh yes, just like Labour and the Tories!

There are flaws in the current process that I would like to see something done about. For example, I don't like the fact that parliamentary spokespeople can effectively block any motion/amendment they don't like. I believe we should have a system where the membership has a say in the policies they want to debate. This could either happen by sending out all competent motions to local parties to prioritise, or by reserving the last day of conference to debate motions prioritised by conference reps (rather as we do with emergency motions). Of course this would give some in the party the heeby jeebies - heavens we might have to debate a really controversial issue.........but I believe it would engender more involvement in the policy making process. As someone who has never had a motion accepted by FCC, I know how demoralising and demotivating it is. In fact the only motion I have ever had debated was one submitted for emergency where the activists prioritised it. Of course FCC may counter by accusing me of writing crappy motions (!)

So, let's see what happens with my various amendments......

What I am pleased about is that an apparent drift towards less policy making and more chatting a la Labour/Tory, seems to be off the cards. At the moment we seem to have it about right.

So, of course I am looking forward to a lively and interesting conference. Will it be possible to amend the motion on Making it Happen? Will we support the status quo in Afghanistan? Will Nick Clegg send us off with fire in our bellies and a song in our hearts???!

More on Free Gaza and Liberty

Latest press release about the Free Gaza and Liberty, knowing Palestinian students who have risked their lives and been injured getting out of Gaza to start university here, I am particularly pleased to hear that the boats will be taking Palestinian students with them when they leave tomorrow:

The FREE GAZA and LIBERTY will leave Gaza for Cyprus on Thursday morning at 9:00 am. Several Palestinian students who have been denied exit visas by Israel will travel to Cyprus on the boats. One Palestinian professor will finally be able to go back to teaching in Europe and one young Palestinian woman will finally be reunited with her husband. Several of the Free Gaza international human rights workers will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

By freely traveling to Gaza, on Saturday, August 23rd, in two small wooden boats, the Free Gaza Movement forced the Israeli government to issue a fundamental policy change regarding their military and economic blockade of Gaza. Until now, Israel has wanted absolute control of Gaza with no responsibility. Israel has managed to maintain this situation, in spite of international law, because its policies have never been challenged.

When the FREE GAZA and LIBERTY approached the waters of Gaza, the Israeli government had to decide whether it wanted to publicly acknowledge that Israel remains an occupying power in Gaza, in which case Israel would be responsible under international law for its actions, including war crimes. In the face of intense, public scrutiny, Israel instead chose to acknowledge the inherent right of Palestinians to freely engage with the world. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs publicly announced that humanitarian and human rights missions to Gaza will no longer be stopped or threatened by Israel. With the end of the Israeli siege of Gaza, Palestinians are free to exercise their rights without fear of being stopped or killed by the Israeli military.

Since the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement will not be entering Israeli territorial waters, and since they will request an inspection from the Gaza Port Authority, they expect no interference on the part of the Israeli authorities when they leave Gaza. By Israel’s own admission, it has no authority to inspect the boats or the passengers when they leave Gaza.

With the collapse of the Israeli blockade, the Free Gaza Movement will quickly return to Gaza with another delegation, and invites the United Nations, Arab League and international community to organize similar human rights and humanitarian efforts. The Free Gaza Movement will continue to work to ensure the free passage between Gaza and the outside world will remain safe and open.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty break Gaza blockade

Spending a few peaceful days in the wonderful Swaledale but just picked up this news from Gaza

GAZA (23 August 2008) - Two small boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, successfully landed in Gaza early this evening, breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The boats were crewed by a determined group of international human rights workers from the Free Gaza Movement. They had spent two years organizing the effort, raising money by giving small presentations at churches, mosques, synagogues, and in the homes of family, friends, and supporters.

They left Cyprus on Thursday morning, sailing over 350 kilometers through choppy seas. They made the journey despite threats that the Israeli government would use force to stop them. They continued sailing although they lost almost all communications and navigation systems due to outside jamming by some unknown party. They arrived in Gaza to the cheers and joyful tears of hundreds of Palestinians who came out to the beaches to welcome them.

Two small boats, 42 determined human rights workers, one simple message: “The world has not forgotten the people of this land. Today, we are all from Gaza .”

Tonight, the cheering will be heard as far away as Tel Aviv and Washington D.C.

“We recognize that we’re two, humble boats, but what we’ve accomplished is to show that average people from around the world can mobilize to create change. We do not have to stay silent in the face of injustice. Reaching Gaza today, there is such a sense of hope, and hope is what mobilizes people everywhere.”

--Huwaida Arraf.

“We’re the first ones in 41 years to enter Gaza freely - but we won’t be the last. We welcome the world to join us and see what we’re seeing.”

--Paul Larudee, Ph.D.

“What we’ve done shows that people can do what governments should have done. If people stand up against injustice, we can truly be the conscience of the world.”

--Jeff Halper, Ph.D.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Am I turning into a Tory?

Wednesday, having been remiss in the washing clothes department, I scoured the bottom of the wardrobe. I went to work in a smart pair of black trousers, a high necked pink jumper and flat shoes. What has this got to do with the price of eggs? I hear you ask! Well, two of my colleagues independently commented. They had never seen me dressed so conservatively - what was happening?! Perhaps it was also a subliminal reaction to hearing George Osborne on the Today Programme and finding myself unable to disagree with much he said. Am I metamorphosing into a Conservative? Have I had it wrong all these years, is it the Tories who are the real progressives? Are they, as George Osborne claims, the ones to deliver a fairer society?

Well, listening to him I have to say, even though there wasn't much to disagree with, motherhood and apple pie and all that, I still couldn't help finding myself squirming at that underlying Etonesque arrogance that has always been the trade mark of so many Tories. So I was interested to read this article by Steve Richards in the Indy, comparing the tactics of New Tories with those of New Labour in the 90's. "Mr Blair made intoxicating speeches in the mid-1990s that seemed to develop an argument when he was actually avoiding one. Mr Osborne follows a similar path."

And later Richards argues -

"Like some of his other senior colleagues, Mr Osborne has read the New Labour manuals assiduously and probably knows off by heart the speeches delivered by Blair and Brown en route to their 1997 landslide. They declared that the new divide in the mid-1990s was not between high and low taxation, but fair and unfair taxation. It sounded like a moment of definitive change. But what did they mean by fair and unfair tax? What did they regard as levels that were too high? An apparently defining argument hid a thousand more important debates.

Mr Blair opened the door to Mr Osborne in other ways too. Towards the end of his leadership, he argued Labour had become too obsessed about the means in politics rather than the ends. But it is the means that are the cause of the divide between parties. Mrs Thatcher argued that her policies produced fairer outcomes compared with Labour. The arguments were over the means. No party claims that it wants an unfair society. In suggesting that the means are unimportant Mr Blair gave the Conservatives the freedom to argue that their approach is progressive because they seek fair outcomes. Every politician in Britain seeks fairer outcomes.

One of the reasons why Mr Osborne's speech is politically clever also relates to Mr Blair. The ultra-Blairites will agree with every word, the vaguely defined means as well as the ends that no one would disagree about. Out of genuine conviction as much as pragmatism, the heirs to Blair, Cameron and Osborne, cause mayhem in the Labour Party. Whether revisiting the politics of the mid-1990s is a successful route to power is another matter."

Absolutely! This is why I am uncomfortable, of course outcomes are important, but they are dependent on the means and getting the means wrong because of an underlying flawed premise, will result not only in failure but also in the kind of unfairness we have seen in both Tory and Labour Britain.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From a Nick's he doing?

Conference season draws on apace. Given the cursory attention given to Spring Conference, the media will no doubt be pontificating postulating and palpitating about Nick Clegg's performance at conference. Activists will be looking to him to give a barnstorming performance, the media, armed with microscopic magnifying glasses, will be searching for flaws in that performance.

Shortly after conference last year we were thrown headlong into the drama of a leadership election. At the time I nailed my colours, somewhat firmly, to the Clegg mast. So, am I regretting my decision?

At autumn conference three years ago I was interviewed by ITN about Charles Kennedy (the chat at the time, you may recall, was about whether he was a leader or a chair). At the time I expressed the view that he was doing a great job, but that at the time of the next election we may need someone with different skills. Maybe Charles was the Moses who had lead us to the edge of the promised land, but in the run up to a General Election we may need a Joshua to lead us in! (apologies to those who don't know their Bibles, you'll just have to go look it up!)

Do I still think Nick Clegg is Joshua to Charles Kennedy's Moses? Well, I have had my differences, over taxes, over Trident, over marketization, over...........????? And therein lies my point. I do disagree with Nick on some issues, issues upon which I will no doubt have a bit of a barney with him and others at conference...IF I AM ALLOWED TO SPEAK!!! But on so many issues I absolutely agree with him and will continue to support him. Be that education, crime, mental health, most foreign policy, civil liberties, human rights, localism, diversity. The list is endless.

OK, so I agree with him on loads, I agree with lots of people on loads, but does it mean I think he has cut the mustard as leader? He has received a fair bit of stick from friend and foe alike, most notably the honourable Mr Huhne. He has occasionally dropped himself in it (tho this obsession with how many women he has or hasn't slept with and not just in the gutter press, leaves me cold, sorry, if there aren't more important issues for people to worry about frankly get a life!)

So, my view thus far? Well, you don't plant a sapling and then blame it when it starts to sway a little in the wind. Any new leader needs time to bed in. In Nick's case he has strong enough roots to withstand the buffeting...........and given time will become the mighty oak we are all looking for! He has enormous energy and resilience. He has the fleetness of foot and ability to spot and exploit opportunities that I have been crying out for. Nick has substance where Cameron is all smoke and mirrors. If you will forgive my mixing my metaphors, Nick is the house built on the rock, Cameron is building on sand.

Today he has hit the headlines twice on two different issues. Anyone remember when that has happened before? Firstly he threw down the environmental gauntlet on renewable energy, great coverage, great messages. Secondly he has been the only political leader (anywhere in the world as far as I know) to tell the truth about the Olympics and China. This evening on The World Tonight he showed his metal and did what a leader is expected to do...........speak on behalf of those he leads, I don't know about you, but he certainly spoke for me. He demonstrated that he is not a fairweather politico, he spoke with passion, intelligence and a depth which is almost absent elsewhere. He accused political leaders of being naive, making a mistake, gambling on the idea that this was a way of advancing human rights. He rightly in my view, reflected that this may in fact have the reverse effect. He worried that once the games are over the regime may in fact take the opportunity to act with brutality in Tibet and elsewhere. And of course, given his background, he speaks with some knowledge and authority about China. He rightly challenged the naive notion that the Olympics have nothing to do with politics and feared that Gordon Brown would be swept up with the euphoria of our medal success and would abdicate his responsibility to take the opportunity to speak out against Chinese human rights abuses.

So, in the foothills of conference season I am reminded of comments from my streetwise daughter. Last year she attended her first hustings in Cambridge, her comment at the time "I felt like Chris was talking to the audience and Nick was talking to me". Then, coming out of Nick's conference speech in Liverpool, her total belief that if only everyone, especially her friends, could hear Nick's speech, they would be bound to vote for us.

In conclusion. I don't and never will agree with Nick on everything. I will attract his and others ire for speaking my mind, sorry, I am too long in the tooth to become a default sycophant...........but, he is our jewel in the crown, he can and will be the "Joshua" we need. Watch this space!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dear Fellow Bloggers...........

I have been deeply touched by the comments left by fellow bloggers on my post about my sister last week. Thanks so much to all of you, mental illness can leave the families as well as the sufferers feeling isolated and misunderstood and you have so encouraged me.

As someone who occasionally "shouts the odds" about all sorts of things, this is something I feel I have not shouted about enough. There are excellent campaigning organisations out there such as Mind, Young Minds, The Mental Health Foundation and others. But their campaigns so often fall on deaf ears. It takes a tragedy for the media to even make a passing reference to mental health care so what hope to put this issue any higher up the political agenda? The irony is that the cost of continuing to relegate mental health to the bottom of the political agenda is a cost to us all. A financial cost (for example 90% of prisoners have mental health problems) but more importantly a human cost.

At the moment I am not really in a good state to think through what we could be doing (ask my work colleagues whether I have listened to a word they said today!), but I am serious about doing something, however small, to change things. First step is a Facebook Group, second step may be a little more radical.......ideas on a postcard (or an email) please.......

Can we rethink police targets please?

The other morning I caught a piece on Today about police targets and how they were having a damaging impact on policing in England and Wales. This follows on from a Civitas report in May about police targeting trivial crimes in order to meet targets.

This caught my ear because I had been having an interesting conversation with a youth worker from Manchester earlier in the week. He was telling me that the police were being withdrawn from preventative work with young people in his patch because they weren't meeting their arrest targets with crime falling. Is this arse-backwards or what? It is a bit like the nonsensical targets for ASBOs - surely high numbers of ASBOs being issued is a sign of failure not success? This young man also told me about a really disturbing incident. Three young women were walking home and were stopped by the police and told to split up since there were three of them. One walked home on her own through a park and was raped.

What worries me about this obsession with targets and measures such as dispersal orders and exclusion zones is that they are all too often blunt and inflexible instruments that at best have little impact and at worst actually do harm. All the time the media and consequently politicians, are driven by perception rather than reality we will be showered with these window dressing, playing to the gallery, initiatives. Try putting "anti-social behaviour" into Google..........and see where else in the English speaking world it is such an obsession!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A time to dance..............

It has been a roller coaster couple of weeks for a number of reasons, which meant I never got to post about something to celebrate in the midst of quite a lot of sadness and anxiety.

Two weekends ago we travelled north to West Auckland for the wedding of Sophie and John. It was a family affair, Lara did Sophie's hair, Sumaiyah was bridesmaid and I had the great honour of signing the register and doing the "father of the bride" speech.

Throughout the weekend whenever Ravi would get a call from a friend he would explain we were at a family wedding. Like many young people I have worked with over the years, Sophie has become part of the family. This means a lot to me, that my children never saw any of my relationships outside our blood family as a threat. On one occasion, when Lara was doing a Saturday job in a local hairdresser's this had amusing consequences. Another young woman whose own mother had died but had always seen me as another mum, had her first baby. Lara had obviously been talking to a elderly woman whose nails she was doing about this. When I arrived to collect Lara to visit Rosalyn and the baby she beamed at me "Congratulations!" she said - I asked if she thought I was a grandmother, which she did, Lara had told her her sister had just given birth. I tried to explain that Rosalyn wasn't my real daughter, I had young people across Bedford who regarded me as a second mum, but the poor woman became more confused, "so is Lara your real daughter?" she asked!

So Sophie's wedding was a great blessing to me and a reminder of why I regard youth work as so important. She had a very difficult time during her teenage years, but my commitment to her was never based on "targets" and didn't evaporate when she moved away and I changed jobs. In the sixteen years I have known her there have been times when she has needed my support on a daily basis, then there have been months when we haven't spoken.

She has met and married a lovely young man and I find myself feeling rather like the contented mother that she is settled and secure and embarking upon a wonderful future with him. And she is a reminder to me that there are so many young people out there who, with the right support and encouragement, at the right time, will overcome any challenge. Certainly a great excuse to dance!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mental Health - the last taboo?

Last weekend my sister came to stay. She wasn't in a good place, but although there were warning signs I wasn't alarmed enough to seek help. On Tuesday evening, whilst away at a training course, I got a call from another sister. She had been on the phone to my mother when someone had knocked on the door to say they had found Sarah very distressed in a nearby country lane. At this time it wasn't clear what had happened, but it soon became very clear.

Sarah (as I explained last year) has a history of mental health problems. A few weeks ago it appears her medication was changed, but with no monitoring. On Tuesday she had reached her wits end. She left a suicide note and went over to visit my parents. When she left she drove to a country lane and tried to take her life by attaching a hose pipe to her exhaust. Thankfully someone, the person who knocked on my mum's door, found her, and went for help. But in the mean time she believed she should gouge her eyes out. She is now in hospital, hopefully being stabilised. We are hopeful, but will have to wait to see if she has lost the sight in one of her eyes.

As you might imagine we have been devastated. However sick Sarah has been in the past she has never ever tried to hurt herself before, this is a frightening twist in her condition. Yet again we have come up against a system that seems to regard mental health care as a Cinderella service. Her medication was changed without informing anyone in the family and without any monitoring. Had she succeeded in taking her life, or even taking someone else's in that condition, no doubt there would have been much wringing of hands and platitudes and enquiries. The fact is, it seems the systems just aren't there either to protect patients or to protect the public.

She is now thankfully in a very nice and secure unit near the family. But, her greatest fear is to return to the unit I described last year. We have promised her she will not be sent back to that hell hole. Frankly I would sacrifice my political career by chaining myself to the railings or doing whatever else was necessary to stop that happening. Because of her injuries this is not on the cards for a couple of weeks, but yet again, patient choice does not extend to mental health services.

Mental health issues touch us all in some way or other. Most of us will have family or close friends who have suffered. Whilst we may have moved on in terms of our attitudes to disability, the same cannot be said with relation to mental health. At the Labour Party conference last year I collared Ivan Lewis (the minister responsible) about this. He agreed with me, particularly about my concerns about mixed wards in psychiatric units, but there wasn't anything he could do. So, what can we do? I am proud that this is an issue our party is prepared to speak out about. In a few weeks time when my sister hopefully will be home, there will still be thousands of our fellow citizens, already tormented and distressed because of their condition, whose condition will be exacerbated by a system that regards them as second or third class citizens. Sadly there are few votes in campaigning on mental health issues, but my, perhaps old fashioned view is, a society should be judged by how it treats those who are most vulnerable. Right now I don't think we are doing that well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A time to mourn...........

In the age of the cult of the celebrity and the accompanying shift in values, as I commented a few days ago, we all too often lose sight of what is truly good and what really should be celebrated.

Last week a wonderful young man called Jon Dye lost his long battle with cancer, four and a half years after his father died of the same condition. He wasn't a celebrity in the normally accepted sense, it seemed that for some inexplicable reason his life was cut short. But, like so many young people with short lives - although his was a short life it was a life complete. Even through his death he will continue to touch many, to remind us all of what is important in life and to move us to value the precious gift we all so often take for granted. On Sunday I was moved to hear that our local paper, Beds on Sunday, had refused to take payment for the notice of Jon's death since he was so well known around town. Even through his suffering, sometimes in excruciating pain, he continued to live life to the full, he loved much and was loved so much in return.

To quote from his mum "Jon lived life fully with enormous courage and determination right up to the end. On July 20 he went up Snowdon on the train and picnicked at the top with his aunt and cousin. A few days earlier he was sea fishing and caught sea bass. Over the period of his illness, he snowboarded in the French Alps four times, visited Morocco twice and southern Spain (in May this year). He had a special day fishing in Shropshire with TV’s Matt Hayes courtesy the Willow Foundation and made numerous visits to Sarah, his sister in Bournemouth. I cannot imagine life without him. He was my beautiful son and the pain of his loss is unbearable to contemplate though I am so glad all his earthly suffering is over. He is at peace, but life here goes on………."

Yesterday I was privileged to be at his graveside, as he was buried with his wonderful father at Elstow Abbey famous for being the place John Bunyan was baptised in 1628. The thanksgiving service at Russell Park Baptist Church in Bedford, where his father was pastor until he died, was so moving. The church was packed to hear his mother, my dear friend Gill, speak with such strength about him. She reminded us that she had been stood in the same place such a short time ago to speak of her husband. She told us wonderful stories of Jon from the moment he was born when he snuggled into her shoulder, a foretaste of the loving child and young man he was to become. She told us of how he displayed his extreme sport tendencies almost from the beginning. She told us her reply when they visited the Royal Marsden hospital recently, when they knew there was nothing else that could be done for him, except perhaps the trial of a new drug, not due to start until September. She was asked how her faith was holding up, her response was about how it was her faith that was holding her up, her strong sense of the love and grace of God that was enabling her to come through. Jon's sister Sarah had produced the most amazing combination of Jon's photos and favourite music (some of which I doubt has been heard in church before!) and had created a memory tree where everyone was encouraged to write on a leaf their memories of Jon. The only time Gill lost her composure was when two young Muslim friends arrived, and as she finished by reading the same lines from Pilgrim's Progress she had read at Peter's funeral.
I spent this morning with Gill and Sarah and continue to be inspired by their faith and resilience. They were both able to remember Jon, and Peter, sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter. I have to say the most amusing thing for me was to learn something I had never known. Apparently the Anglican church buries everyone facing the same way. Except if you are a minister. Then you are buried with your feet facing the other way, so that on the day of resurrection you will be facing your congregation! Well, Gill had explained this to the funeral director, but after the burial he came to apologise to her. Sorry, he had given his men strict instructions, but unfortunately they had buried Jon the same way as his father, was this OK?

Jon's father was probably the only minister of a church who has ever been able to cope with someone who doesn't quite sit in the box (yes I have a propensity to join institutions, the army, the church, unions, political parties that I then find my self on the margins of!) When I went to the House of Commons to protest against the war with Iraq. with red paint in my bra (a fact that was splashed over the front of the local paper) I got a few sideways looks from fellow Christians, Peter's response was "I know your heart Linda". Peter, like Jon, brought people together. He not only organised meetings for church leaders across the town he also built strong relationships with the Muslim community. In the lead up to the Iraq war when we had a march through town he shared a platform with Muslim leaders to speak against the war - his topic "Not in His Name". He was fearless in challenging Christian Zionism and with Gill, founded Elijah Trust to support the work of Elias Chacour and later Mossawa.

And finally a word about Jon's mum Gill. In my life I have been privileged to have some of the most extraordinary and wonderful friends any one could wish for. Gill is the most extraordinary and remarkable. She is one of the most loving, caring and non-judgemental people I have ever met. She has such a compassionate heart, which of course also means the pain she is suffering right now is excruciating. Yet, having been through the agony of nursing her husband through months of deterioration, she has now with great courage gone through the same with her son. As a mother I cannot imagine the agony of losing one of my precious children, I know I would be in bits. But Gill continues with great dignity and continuing concern for others, drawing on a faith which has not been dented in any way by her suffering.

Jon and his dad touched many lives, their legacy is in the lives they have touched. Their true memorial written in our hearts.

(More pix at Jon Dye - Remembering the good times!!!)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

View from the top updated....................with a little help from Polly Toynbee!

Having spent most of my working life in drafty decrepit youth centres and on badly lit street corners (as a detached youth worker I hasten to add!)............the grandeur of Canary Wharf never ceases to amaze me. Cheek by jowl with some of the most deprived areas in the country, this fantasy city looms out of the mist (aka smog)..........a private estate, squeaky clean, towering metallic structures housing a virtual small town of 70,000 plus people. The virtually relocated "city" doesn't on the surface appear to have suffered due to the credit crunch. The classy jeweller still sells pieces for £1000's, the caviar bar is still packed, more and more posh shops are opening, rather like The Truman Show, everything seems just a little unreal. Yesterday I had a meeting at Barclays, where their meeting rooms on the 30th floor have stunning views (sadly it was raining so the pic isn't that good), set amongst all the other towers, HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America..........the list goes on. Here, in the heart of the "city" the place where many of the decisions that have lead to our current problems are taken, the lack of connection with the reality of people's lives is palpable. The fact that for the past few years the only politician warning of our present reality is Vince Cable is something we should be very proud of. It is a fact that the media had often gone to Vince for a comment rather than George Osborne (who he?!). Let's hope that it isn't just the Tories that get the message that they don't have the competence to deal with the economy, but the country at large. However badly Darling is doing, I fear our present problems would look like a walk in the park if Mr O ever took over as Chancellor.

Since penning this piece my pal Martin alerted me to this article by Polly Toynbee which says what I was trying to far more eloquently!

"Focus groups with the super-rich, most of them in the top 0.1% of earners, commissioned for a book I have co-written with David Walker, threw up more questions than answers. How did these people succeed in setting their own terms with government? They were ignorant about the society they live in and indifferent to any but their own kind, and it is now plain that their own financial incentives encouraged wild risk-taking in banks and funds. Alan Sugar-style brutishness rules the roost, though most of these yahoos are not entrepreneurs at all, but market followers who receive their bonuses irrespective of whether results are good or bad.

Adept at frightening the Treasury, they fight even modest attempts at curbing tax avoidance or taxing non-doms, and the Treasury often retreats. Questions will be asked about who ruled Britain in this decade, just as in the worst days of over-mighty trade unions."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What really matters

Last night I travelled home pontificating on a possible response to the one and only JG and his temperate (?) comments re Nick Clegg and his alleged detractors......(could this be the same Mr G who had a pop at me less than 12 months ago for not giving Ming a chance?!). Well, I had two sobering calls during the evening, one from a very dear pal, who is very disabled and unable to work and has found herself in £60,000 of debt. The other from my sister who regular readers may remember was very poorly last year, and was distraught having just broken off her engagement. Just before 6 this morning I got a text from another dear friend to let me know that her son had just died, this only four years after her husband had died from the same condition.

So fisticuffs with Mr Graham seemed a lot less important. Which got me thinking about how easily we lose sight of the important things in life - so many of which motivated us all to get involved in politics in the first place. We find ourselves entangled in the detail when the big picture is what is important. We fiddle fart about arguing about the means when surely it is the outcome we should be focusing upon? We judge others for not doing things as we believe they should rather than seeking common cause to end the injustices and inequalities we all abhor.

Well, this is where I am right now...............but I have no doubt I will return to kick ass tomorrow!