Category Archives: Barack Obama

May- June feels a little flat by comparison- Obama, Iraq, Osama

I have been waiting patiently since this announcement was made one month ago for some kind of comment…

But with ash filling the skies on the day this story featured on page 8 of the ipaper…

… the symbolic end to a shambolic war was easily lost among the noise…




… leaving a distinctly Iraq-shaped hole in Obama’s first visit to the UK three days later.


The War on Terror, Axis of Evil and WMDs. More than 1 million people marched, and they did it anyway.

What have we learned?




The Robin Cook Memorial Conference is being hosted by Compass at the Institute of Education in London on Saturday.


As a fierce opponent of the war, Cook would have been pleased that t

he event brings together progressive politicians of all parties, pressure groups, trade unions, think tanks, NGOs, academics, activists, thinkers and campaigners from across civil society to discuss and debate how we build the good society.

Since 2003, Compass Youth has aimed to engage young people to find out what issues really matter.

At 12.45pm they will host: Liam Burns, NUS President-elect, Adam Ramsay, co-editor of the Bright Green blog, Tom Wood, Chair of Liberal Youth, Shiv Malik, Guardian journalist and co-author of ‘The Jilted Generation’ and Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan.


The panel, chaired by Luke Pearce from Compass Youth, will discuss: ‘Signals of Intent: Values and Structures of Tomorrow’.


“There exists a generational disparity in the way politics is practised and the values political parties represent. Increasingly youth politics is practised on issues and through structures distinct from conventional politics.


“At a time when youth have been disproportionately affected by the recent cuts to funding and in order for the centre left to grow support for our ideals, we must embrace the distinct way of thinking and doing politics that youth movements represent.”




So, a month ago, after nine years, my whole political lifetime, the British armed forces stepped off Iraqi soil for the final time.

Where is the Opposition? In fact, where is the Government? Or as a country, after nine years, is this us done?

Tony’s children, surely, we have to work out what we need to do to make sure this never happens again?

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First published on the Oxfam blog here.


It is the year 2060, I am 72, and I hate to say I told you so.

London is underwater, like Bangkok, Cairo and Shanghai. Venice too, but that was a given, and whole countries, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

World population is said to have peaked, at 9 billion, coinciding with the 4C temperature increase that has drowned whole swathes of continents and scorched others.

Just as in the century preceding it, 2060 has produced winners and losers.

People are starving.

2010

In 2010, I attended the Independent Live climate change debate ahead of the United Nations meeting in Cancun.

Sponsored by Shell and Channel 4, the fate of any progress on international legislation was unhelpfully sealed by our Chair in his opening riposte.

“It is accepted that no agreements will be made in Cancun,” Mike McCarthy, Independent environment editor said.

Political will

I spoke to him afterwards, and he said a point reiterated in the inewspaper, launched only a month earlier: “The Chinese made it crystal clear at Copenhagen that they were absolutely unwilling to be legally bound with regard to emissions.”

He added: “As for the US, Mr Obama’s pledge to cut emissions by 17 per cent last year was predicated on the US Congress agreeing.

“Since the triumph of the Republicans in the mid-term elections, that agreement and the legislation that would result are dead in the water.”

I pressed him, asking if the matter was so urgent, life and death, couldn’t we, the UK, the West make the first move, leave the Chinese behind for now if we had to?

No?

During the debate, they spoke of the technology being ready, but for the political will.

Public will

An impassioned member of the audience stood and said: “the public will is there, we are ready, we need your direction.”

And so we left it, all in agreement, but without dynamic leaders, with little conviction.

MARGJIN, a coalition of charities staged the picture of David Cameron and Barack Obama with the world in their hands in Liverpool.

If only these men had convinced others of the urgency.

Written will

For a fantastic comment on how the left of the media feels about Cancun, check out Johann Hari of the Independent, buried inside the newspaper like much of the coverage of the most destructive issue facing our generation.

Is it irresponsible to leave the decisions down to government, to passively report, when so many lives are at risk?

Young people in Canada are frightened.

Liverpool Oxfam society is hosting an event called ‘1.4 Billion Reasons’ on Monday from 7-9pm in the University Lecture Rooms Building about all the people already living in extreme poverty.

The Iraq Inquiry


First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=3446

Alistair Campbell stumbled on his words. For the first time I have ever seen, he has lost his cool. But this wasn’t during the Iraq Inquiry.

Like Fern Britton, the ‘morning political heavyweight’ who tackled Tony Blair a few weeks ago, Andrew Marr sleighed yet another New Labour Dragon on the sofa.

Campbell regained his composure during the Sunday morning roasting, and blamed the persistent line of questioning for his hesitation; the media is out to get him, a claim reiterated on the couch with the Loose Women on Tuesday.

But the real questions, it seems, are being asked outside of the investigation.

I visited the Iraq Inquiry, jovial… rather sadly, that I’d managed to get a ticket to see Tony Blair. Here, after yet another Inquiry, his uppance would come…

Blair was made Middle East Peace Envoy for the UN, the EU, the US and Russia on the day he left office in 2007, (yes, after Afghanistan and Iraq), yet he took the photo-opportunity to condemn Iran throughout his evidence.

He spoke of “security”, “fear”, “risk” and “attack” but just how alarmed should we be? After all, the Iraq War was supposed to make our streets safer?

The BBC reported on the 23rd January that “The UK terror threat level is being raised from “substantial” to “severe”, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said.”

Almost as unclear as some of Blair’s justification for war; “What if the intelligence was right and we hadn’t acted?”, “If Saddam was getting WMDs, I thought he might attack the UK”, “It wasn’t something that people disputed at the time”.

“The relationship with the US is vital for our security” Blair urged, “I didn’t want America to feel like it was doing it on its own”. Since Barack Obama came to power, he has distanced himself from any “special relationship” with the UK. Probably out of coolness, to shake off the International Lap Dog.

Ultimately Tony Blair’s defence of the ‘intelligence’ on Weapons of Mass Destruction was, “I believed it, beyond doubt”.

From Thatcher to the height of the Blair reign, the position of prime minister has centralized to the point where Blair allowed his own judgment to be the justification. David Cameron is reportedly checking all Tweets made by his shadow ministers in the run-up to the general election.

The lines of question were often probing: “Whose advice were you listening to who didn’t agree with you already?” Chilcot queried. Blair was also lead around a series of “Why Iraq, why now questions”.

But to the dismay of the 700 people who thought they had the golden ticket, they couldn’t get the same answers Fern Britten had pleasantly posed before he appeared.

One only need see the sign of a protester outside the building to see what ‘the world’ might now think: “7 million Iraqis killed, injured or made homeless since 2003”.

Associated Press estimated last year that more than 100,000 civilians had been killed, but for every innocent person, there are relatives who have lost a loved one, looking for somebody to blame.

A protester was restrained trying to perform a citizen’s arrest on Blair, influenced by arrestblair.org, a website offering a reward to people “attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest” on Mr Blair “for crimes against peace”. But he left without detention.

Peter McKay said in the Mail “Perhaps we need an inquiry into inquiries themselves — how they are set up, why some people are chosen for them above others, and the true motives of those who decide to have them.” And, apart from the format being the obvious flaw, I’m afraid he might be right.

The Metropolitan Police declined to comment on how much the policing of Blair’s Second Coming had cost. But a helpful Met Police Officer who had been drafted in for the day said that just outside the building there were more than 150 officers- four higher ranking officer per patrol of 21. You do the maths.

G20 protest- Gee, what a showing, but will they take notice?

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=1765

What a decade! As New Labour staggers to its timely death, this could be the most telling week we, the people, have had since the demonstrations against the Iraq War. Hopefully this one will actually make a difference.

The emergency G20 summit is due to open today- yes, April Fool’s Day could not have been any more fitting- and people are pissed off!


Activists and even usual apathetics are coming together, putting their differences aside and sticking it straight to the man in what the Guardian termed a ‘rainbow alliance’.


Whether they’re campaigning against globalization, capitalism, or war, for measures to combat climate change or for justice, a band of somewhat unlikely bed fellows has taken shape.


Everyone from trade unions, student groups like People and Planet, our old friends the CND (campaign for nuclear disarmament) and so-called ‘radical academics’ are taking to the streets.


So apt that the summit, and therefore the protests, are taking place in London where we have seen the mighty, gluttonous financial system’s vital organs burst.


Workers in the capital, including those at MTV were told to “dress down” so they would not be mistaken for disbanded City workers and targeted by the angry mob. The Met said before Saturday, the first day of demonstrations, that they expected it to be ‘very violent’ but goaded that they were ‘up for it, and up to it’.


Would these threats encourage violence so the protesters would undermine their cause? Or were they a warning made to discourage peaceful campaigners from joining the national picket line? Either way, the threat didn’t work and the violence didn’t materialize.


Because we aren’t the criminals here.


People’s disdain for the once lauded bankers manifested itself in an attack on Sir (I use the term very loosely) Fred Goodwin’s swanky villa. Criminality isn’t the answer of course. But the government should be asking itself why people feel they have to resort to such tactics in what should be a representative democracy.


Responsibility was taken by the group ‘Bank bosses are criminals‘ and whilst police action hasn’t been taken against any bankers in this country, they are said to be pursuing the perpetrators of what is probably best described as a petty crime.


UKFI, the body created to handle the government’s stakes in nationalised banks, is ‘considering’ using its (our) 70% stake to vote against a motion justifying Fred the Shreds hefty pension package. Finally! Why are they not getting the picture?


A video emerged last week of Tory MEP (why did he have to be a Tory?) Daniel Hannan giving Gordon Brown a royal roasting. The camera flicked to a typically defiant Brown who appeared to snigger and then continue with his game of noughts and crosses.


But many of you will still be asking, of all the different avenues of showing our disgust is anyone really going to take any notice?


After all, until now, and even now, there appears to be an unspoken conspiracy.

Everyone knows that quantative easing, printing money, won’t really work. It will devalue our currency. Everyone knows that some, many, maybe even all of our politicians, across party lines, have been taking advantage of an imperfect system that could not prepare itself for crafty lawyers and their legal loopholes.


So maybe that’s why no one can wear the white suite of Martin Bell and come out against corruption. The government, the business leaders and the media.


But Barack Obama is a fresh face at the conference. Could the public outrage and peaceful protest, coupled with this brilliant man, be the key to a future full of truthful politicians, free from greed in a world with a clear view to tackling climate change, poverty and war?


Is this too much to ask? As always in the politics of the day, only time can tell.


Anyway, the next important date for your diary? If a vote of no confidence isn’t taken against Brown any sooner, it will be the next General Election in May 2010. Ten years into the millennium that promised so much.


Here, again, the people will have their say, and as Mr Hannan finished on last week, the voters: “can see what the markets have already seen; that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.”

Recession- Extraordinary Times- We Need To Seize The Opportunity

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?m=200903&paged=4


These extraordinary times. Her voice echoes out from the TV screen. A news reporter is gravely explaining the next victim in an ever-lengthening line of businesses- banks- queuing for Government hand outs.


AIG has reported the biggest loss in American corporate history. So, the biggest financial loss in world history.


Capitalism, the world, as we know it, will never be the same again. We have been flung, bleary-eyed and naked into the future. We have been crawling, and now we need to run.


Will Gordon Brown come into his own? He met Barack Obama this week, “the world’s biggest celebrity” the BBC reports.


You can’t help but worry that the U.S will work unilaterally. But I have every faith in Obama. And the right tone of Britishness cannot be underestimated as a tool for negotiation; style and grace.


Of Brown then, I am not so sure. He was the champion, one of the main protagonists, in creating a system that has ultimately failed.


The Sun and the Daily Mirror lead with the Jade Goody story. Not that it isn’t happening. But minute by minute coverage is sick in many ways.


There is so much other news. Important, meaningful, even scary news.


Barack Obama’s stimulus package is the biggest thing that is going to be attempted to fix all of this. Who else is offering answers? This is what needs to be happening, but we need more, we need it here.


HSBC have actually made a profit and yet they have still ‘lost’ 70 per cent on last year. Just how much money were these people gambling with?


The fate of the car industry is gloomy. People are being priced out of their cars, although this could be the making of our public transport system.


The 16-25 rail-card is a steal. But low prices need to be seen on all public transport. People need to be able to get to the places that are important to them cheaply, safely and comfortably. People will walk, our workforce will become active.


And jobs need to be created, ones that we haven’t even thought of yet. If the culture of motoring is going to survive, arguably whether it even should, we need to make cars environmentally friendly, cheap, and these improved car companies need to be employing people.


We need innovation in industry, construction and education. We need to create jobs to make the things that we need, we need people doing what they need to be doing. A report stated that many children’s medicines are now ineffective. Why wait for someone else to change this when we have the bodies, the people willing and able to work?


Communities are shattered. People are empty.


But hark, all is not lost, there are little gems of brilliance glinting on the horizon.


The Vicar of Preston is one of those treasures.


Progressive and engaging, he stood confident and glowing. He explained the basics, or rather, the packed schedule that comes with his job.


He is on 43 committees, meets with the council and leaders of other faiths, and ultimately engages people in the community. He is fighting against the tide, and still getting things done.

He works a 101 hour week.


Vince Cable, of Liberal Democrat fame is talking economic sense. Well, he’s on the news sometimes. The Liberal Democrats certainly aren’t speaking loud enough. And the opposition lies silent.


The Treasury Select Committee is debating failure, whilst backbenchers speak out on everything from education to alcohol tax in Scotland.


These people are making things happen, and others should follow suit. Or crow what they are already doing.


We have the world on our shoulders, and we all need to share some of the weight.