Debating Iraq

So – another chance to debate and beg for an Iraq inquiry – and another chance for the Labour Government to say no! And that is what happened. Although it has to be said it was game, set and match to the opposition parties (united now the Tories have realised how wrong they were to vote for the war) who really made mincemeat of Beckett. The Government had not a single good argument. Sadly, that didn’t stop them winning the vote. For goodness sake – even the US has had an inquiry!

Before that we were subjected to King Tony in the last days of his reign coming forth to the House of Commons, returned from the glorious G8 Summit where agreements to talks were the successes of the day.

Not to be too harsh (oh why not?) whilst it is good that the G8 agreed to a UN-sponsored process on climate change – actually there already is one in the form of Kyoto protocol which involves all of the key developing countries. And while the protocol’s first commitment period comes to an end in 2012 – the protocol itself doesn’t.

If Bush is serious about wanting to involve the US in climate talks all he needs to do is ratify Kyoto – and Bob’s your uncle. Then he can join the next commitment period talks – no probs!

That having been said – it’s at least a start to raising these issues amongst those who count – agreements etc must follow – otherwise it’s all hot air.

More police, less crime

The Muswell Hill and Highgate Area Assembly tonight produced a panoply of police from various streams – transport, parks and neighbourhood. And the good news is that crime is reducing. Of course – the retort is ‘I should bloody well hope so’. Well done to all – but it’s not rocket science. The Safer Neighbourhood Teams together with Transport for London’s TOCU (officers and support officers on our buses etc) are doing their job. If we had all these extra police and crime wasn’t dropping – we would want to know the reason why!

Watched Question Time without falling asleep for once. They all thought that Margaret Beckett should get a sense of humour over Rory Bremner’s stunt. But I’m with Margaret on this one. If I had been duped by Rory – I would be pissed off in the extreme – particularly with myself!

A busy day

I went to the Save Community Hospitals’ lobby in Westminster Hall yesterday. In Haringey we are not so much trying to save a hospital and get a new one on the site of the old one – which wasn’t saved!

I also had Question 4 on the order paper in Foreign Affairs Questions.

Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)
What recent assessment she has made of developments in the situation in Darfur; and if she will make a statement.

Margaret Beckett (Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
President Bashir has now accepted UN support for AMIS—the African Union Mission in Sudan—and has allowed the first UN military personnel into Darfur. That is important, but it is only the first step. We urge the Government of Sudan, the UN and the African Union to work for full implementation of the joint support package and an urgent resumption of the political process. All sides need to observe the ceasefire, too, particularly the Government of Sudan, who have been bombing the rebels, as that is vital for progress on the humanitarian front.

Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)
I thank the Secretary of State for her reply, but has a timeline been developed for the United Nations and the African Union to be on the ground? At what point will that protection start to be provided for people in Darfur?

Margaret Beckett (Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
There are three stages to the deployment: first, light support, in which 180 personnel, 34 of whom have already arrived, are expected to be involved; secondly, heavy support; and, finally, the establishment of a full hybrid African Union and United Nations force. There is no specific timescale, but everyone who wishes the position in Darfur to improve is anxious that as many of those people as possible should be deployed as soon as possible, and that is something for which we are all working.

Ironically, had had to move my meeting with Secretary of State for International Development from 3pm because of the question. It’s like a ballot – so until a couple of days before you have no idea that the question you have tabled has been selected. Anyway – Hilary Benn’s office were very accommodating and moved the meeting which had been initiated by Hilary as a meet and greet me in my new role.

I went to DFID unarmed. Having heard tell that Hilary Benn doesn’t have an enemy in the world, I judged it safe. Which meant I found myself not just with Hilary as I had expected – but with four of his key aides. Five to one! The first thing you notice is that it is nothing like the Home Office – they are nice and civilised. I think in the year and a half I was on the front bench for Home Affairs – Tony McNulty (Labour’s equivalent) only said hello about twice!

Anyway – we had a chat about the Department and the work they carry out. I look forward to working with him – as we say.

Then it was straight on to Haringey Civic Centre for the presentation by the four bidders for the new school to be built in my constituency. This is one of those insane Government forced bids to bring in an Academy. Boroughs of all political persuasions have seen these privately sponsored new schools take over. I suppose the original idea was enabling the Government to intervene where schools were failing and the LEA was appalling (understandable).

However, this is about businesses really getting hold of Government funding. Listening to the four bids – from a variety of sponsors – it was clear that there was very little to guide one as to which one would deliver exactly what. The crying shame – and actually complete travesty – was the lack of real people at the meeting. There were the bidders, the councillors, some heads, the press – but only six (other) members of the community.

So one has to wonder about Haringey’s efforts to publicise the event (not much). Gail Engert (Lib Dem Education Spokesperson) asked that they consider a better-advertised second meeting. The consultation period needs to be longer and there is a problem with the timing of the decision – which is going to be in the Easter holidays. That is not good – as people can come and present to the decision making meeting – but at that time lots of people are away.

And of course – home to watch Big Brother. This has turned political as a Labour member has tabled an EDM. I am not sure that is the way forward in this case. If there is anything that has broken our laws – then it is really a police matter. However, I am not sure whether it is that clear that it would result in a successful prosecution. It is more the bullying by a gang of girls on one who is different. I can only assume they were jealous of her and because she is posh and classy (as well as non-white) they focused their nastiness on her difference.

I wonder if their punishment won’t be ending up pariahs when they come out. If only the world was that fair!!!