Saturday, July 30, 2005

More centralisation

According to this report in the Guardian,11032,1539302,00.html

local libraries may be nationalised.

This is a compltely backward step and once again flies in the face of the Government's claim to believe in decentralisation.

Local authorities are perfectly capabalbe of running their local libraries, and local input should play a big role in a successful local library which should be a community asset.

What they do need is investment. For the past few years local authorities have received no money at all to improve library buildings. Imagine how much could have been achieved if all th money that was wasted on the Dome had been invested across the country in local libraries and museums instead.

Until recently I was responsible for libraries in Oxfordshire. We made a lot of improvemenst despite the lack of capital. A key part in that success was because we encourage local librarians to use their initiative and respond to local need.

If the Government goes down the route proposed in their consultant's report it will be a further diminishment of local democracy and our local liberaries will be poorer for it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shoot to kill?

Before coming to the main point I want to make it clear that I have not read all the facts about yesterday's shooting and I am not making assumtpions about the rights and wrongs of this particular incident.

However I was struck by these comments reported in The Times:

Pc Norman Brennan, a campaigner for the victims of crime who has called for all officers to be routinely armed, said the shooting was an unfortunate consequence of being "at war". He said: "The long and the short of it is that this country is at war with terrorists and in war there are casualties. Normally in the majority of cases it is the enemy but innocent people will suffer. I am afraid it is tragic but that is part of any battle.

I am sure the family and friends of those wrongly shot by the Police and armed forces as a result of the 'war' will be delighted to know that they are an 'unfortunate consequence'.

It is utterly counter-productive for the security services to take anything other than the utmost caution in their use of force. Allowing the security services to drop their standards when it comes to use of force will simply exacerbate tensions with minority communities and provide those recruiting terrorists one more message to use.

It is just as wrong for an innocent person to be killed or injured by the security services as it is for them to be killed or injured by terrorists. The only justification for using potentially lethal force is if it is clear that there is an imminent threat to life, and one which cannot be stopped in any other way. Anything less and it is inevitable that the security services will join the terrorists in killing innocent people.

It does nothing for the families and friends of victims of terrorist attacks to know that more innocent people have been killed.

There is a real irony in the description of PC Norman Brennan as 'a campagner for the victims of crime'. He doesn't seem to be campaigning for the victim in this case.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A moving moment today

I happened to be at Buckingham Palace today when the two minutes silence was held.

It was a very moving moment as everybody and everything stopped and many heads were bowed.

I thought about those who had died a week ago and their relatives who have lost them, I also thought about the many thousands who have lost thier lives and loved ones in Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other places because of mindless violence.

I thought about the people I have met and worked with in East Africa, the Balkans and the Baltic and the courage they have shown in coming through such conflict and working for peace, liberty and democracy.

It is a moment I will remember.

And then they changed the guard, which I have never watched before. It was very colourful and cheerful and demonstrated, I thought, that life in London goes on.

Well done Mark Hunter

Just heard the excellent result from Cheadle.

Well done to Mark Hunter and the brilliant Lib Dem by-election team.

The Tories ran a very nasty campaign, even by their usual standards, and it is a very good thing that the electors of Cheadle saw right through it.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Very good article on the Times website by Simon Jenkins about the linkage between the decision to bomb Iraq with the bombings in London. I often disagree with Jenkins about issues but he has been spot on on this issue.,,2088-1688040,00.html

I have found listening to a lot of the statements by Blair, Bush and co. quite staggering. It really doesn't seem to occur to them that the pain and suffereing caused to each British or US family killed by a bombing is exactly the same as the pain and suffering caused to so many more families in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

First Arnie, now John Major ...

A very honest and convincing piece from John Major in today's Guardian:,9115,1522118,00.html

What is the world coming to?!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Even Arnie gets it

If you had told me five years ago that I would picking up my Independent on Sunday to read a choerent article on the importance of tackling climate change written by Arnold Schwarzeneger I wouldn't have believed you.

But it happened. And he is not alone, several US states and more than 400 town and city mayors have already started work to tackle pollution and emmissions.

Republicans in the Senate even voted against the Bush line.

Surely it is now only a matter of time before Bush has to see sense?

Live 8 - will it make a difference?

I sat and watched Live 8 pretty much all the way through yesterday (other than spending a bit of time ferrying boxes of envelopes around to local Lib Dem helpers).

20 years ago I sat and watched Live Aid with a group of my teenage mates. This time it was with the missus and small children - quitea contrast!

What didn't change for me was the effect. Live Aid was one of the events that motivated me to get involved in politics 20 years ago. I watched the coverage and read the papers and decided that I could not see any reason why so many people should live in abject poverty on a planet where so many others are so rich.

I remember the tears rolling when they played that memorable footage over 'Who's gonna drive you home' by The Cars and the tears were rolling again yesterday when Bob Geldof introduced
Birhan Woldu, one of the starving children featured in that film.

There has been a lot of questioning about the effectiveness of Live 8. Isn't Bob Geldof on an ego trip? Why should we listen to rock stars anyway? Will it make a difference?

In my view it is not Live 8 we should be questioning. It is politics and politicians. We should be asking how it is that G8 leaders can possibly fail to take serious action. Why is it that western governments will spend more money this year subsidising their own farmers than the entire total of African debt.

As far as I am concerned Live 8 has already worked. It has got millions of people listening to the arguments and issues. It will energise tens of thousands of people into actively campaigning. And it certainly can't have reduced the chances of the G8 summit achieving something.

And if the issue is important enough to persuade Roger Waters to step on stage with Dave Gilmour after their 24 year grudge, surely a few billion isn't asking too much?