Friday, 28 September 2007

Today at the Burmese Embassy

Today, wearing my red polo-neck sweater that was the nearest thing I could find to a red shirt, and holding up an umbrella as rain began to fall, I joined the daily noon-till-one demonstration outside the Burmese Embassy at 19A Charles Street, Mayfair, London. It seemed the least that a decent person could do to protest against the bandits whose servants are inside the Embassy whilst the lawfully elected leader is languishing in custody back in Burma.
I arrived a little after midday and found quite a large crowd already. There was a big group from Amnesty International, some people from Unison, some others from ITF, which apparently is the International Transport Workers Federation, and a few rather sweet, geeky bespectacled student types trying to sell copies of Socialist Worker newspaper, but I didn't see anyone wanting to buy one. And there were lots of people of no particular affiliation. There were hundreds of people and quite a few joined after I did. The rain got heavier, and there were not enough umbrellas to go round, but no one left.
After a few minutes a group of monks in saffron robes and people wearing the red and gold logo of the opposition party arrived. We stood quietly while some of them made speeches in Burmese to applause, followed by chanting which, a young Burmese man explained to me, were prayers for the safety of the people inside Burma.
After one o'clock some people started to drift away but the majority stayed put as they were going to march to the Prime Minister's house at Downing Street. I was glad to see several TV teams busy interviewing participants. I could have sworn I saw an incredibly good-looking woman who looked just like Virginia McKenna, or her identical twin, go by... and was gratified to learn afterwards from the BBC that it was indeed the film actress and star of that gripping film A Town Like Alice.
On my way back to work I picked up an abandoned Daily Mail on the bus. Their skewed priorities put a story about immigration on the front page in huge letters, and Burma only made it to page 9. But on page 9 were the still photos of the moments before and after the murder by a single gunshot of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai by a Burmese soldier. This is what politics can become if the brutes get control of power. The rest of us have to keep working to prevent it.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

A heroine - the true leader of Burma

While I was Chair of Women Liberal Democrats we elected Aung San Suu Kyi (in her absence, as she was under house arrest in Burma at the time) as an honorary vice-president of our organisation. I do not know whether she ever heard about her election. If not, perhaps someone will read this and tell her. This wonderful woman is the legitimate leader of Burma, having been elected in 1990 with an overwhelming democratic mandate. My thoughts are with her and all her supporters as they protest peacefully against the thuggish military dictatorship that rules by terror and brutality.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Vince Cable - an absolute star

Vince Cable MP's self-effacing character is such that I expect he'd be the last person to want celeb status, but his sheer quality shone through here at Brighton on Tuesday morning when he summed up the debate on taxation. His understanding of financial and economic issues is a deep well from which he draws apparently effortlessly the clear, easy language with which he is able to explain complexities and take a diverse lay audience with him. He explained, in his nice way, that although the leadership feels now is not the time to propose a new land tax, and although the council tax is too unfair to be reformable and must be binned, in the long term he is in favour of shifting the tax base from income on to land. I am for that too, so I was glad to hear him say that. And thus reassurance was given on what could have been a major bone of contention to many of us. Despite the heavy content, his speech was never dull, and was at times extremely funny. But we don't listen to Vince to be entertained: we listen because we have learned to greatly value what he has to say, and he is very well liked. If Vince became Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow, the country would be in very good hands, and he is a fine deputy leader of the party, too.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Greenery and smoked fish

I am at the Lib Dems' Federal Conference in Brighton where my hotel thoughtfully provides free broadband access. Having lugged a laptop here I was gratified. Yesterday after playing my small part in successfully seeing off an attempt to reverse our admirable anti-nuclear power policy (hurray!) I celebrated by returning to a favourite haunt, where a delicious, great value and arguably the healthiest, lunchtime bite is to be found: chez Jack & Linda's smoked fish emporium at 197 King's Road Arches. Go ye there in droves! Jack is clearly a great guy. For one thing he serves very nice fish, for another he likes my dog, and for a third, he likes things that grow, as I spotted him watering some plants with recycled grey water. This led to a conversation in which he pointed out a tree stump close by that is all that is left of a palm tree that got vandalised by some moron. Speaking for myself, I would be prepared to make an exception to human rights in the case of individuals who vandalise trees, even after making every allowance for the fact that such persons are deeply sick and sad.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

London keeps moving

Yesterday I walked from Liverpool Street to Westminster for the Federal Policy Committee meeting. The meeting was less interesting than the journey. The vicinity of Liverpool Street was packed with walkers, many of whom obviously did not normally do much walking, as they were not very good at it. I chose a route via quiet back streets and gardens along the river, which was also the shortest route. On reaching the Palace of Westminster I found the security guys had been busy (again): now the road in front is closed to vehicle traffic by massive barriers. I walked through marvelling at how quiet it was - just the footsteps of dozens of pedestrians. It cannot have been this quiet on a workday afternoon since before the internal combustion engine. Good riddance to cars, say I.
Claims that the RMT union can bring London to a standstill are tosh. There are buses and bikes. Failing these, it is not hard to walk across Central London from one mainline station to another. I routinely walk from Victoria to Paddington, or to Euston or to Liverpool Street, and vice versa. No special equipment required - just comfortable shoes, and time.