Early start with the Freedom Breakfast – organised by Pastor Nims Obunge of the Peace Alliance. These are uplifiting occasions when Nims forces us (the Haringey community) to raise our eyes above our daily grind and brings out our better selves as we wrestle with really trying to make the world a better place. This year the ‘breakfast’ is focused on celebrating the abolition of slavery 200 years ago. A variety of speakers take the podium and each table also is posed three questions to discuss and then feedback to an invited panel – politicians, police chief, a representative from Amnesty and myself.
My speech (read in full here) was really focused on the continuation of slavery in modern terms – i.e. human trafficking, which is increasing and endemic and is alive and sick in Haringey as elsewhere. In fact the police busted a big trafficking gang locally who were charging people between £3,000 and £5,000 to come here and were then sold into mainly prostitution.
So whilst we have come a long way since the slave trade per se – but clearly still have a long way to go.
Watched Gordon Brown being interviewed by Andrew Marr and trying to be nice and cuddly. Problem is, as William Hague put it, no one can possibly believe he has had nothing to do with the events of this last week. Most damning was his too long silence. But I guess when you have kept silent for a decade and let TB take all the knocks – you don’t really know how to step to the front. It was evident that he is so used to saying almost nothing when a controversial issue hits (remember his long silences over Iraq? tube privatisation? etc etc). So he reverted to tired phrases. But you can’t have tired phrases if you want to lead a Labour renewal.
Spent the later part of this afternoon at a church service to mark the start of Peace Week. Haringey is the cradle of Peace Week, courtesy of the charismatic Reverend, Nims Obunge. Now a London-wide movement, it is going from strength to strength. Much singing and praising – and I, David Lammy (MP for Tottenham), George Meehan (Leader Haringey Council) and others all addressed the congregation.
Part of the praying and the blessing was to bring strength and wisdom to the leaders of the community (including us the speakers). It is very nice to be prayed for. I am not religious – but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the spiritual side of life in a way.
It was also very moving to hear prayers for community safety, for entrepreneurs to move into the area, for health and so on. It was very practical prayer. Peace and justice was the overall theme – and of course the point is you cannot have peace without justice.
Evening at a dinner for Luis Pilau, the evangelist. I’m not evangelical myself but I had promised Pastor Nims Obunge (who is just the finest pastor you will ever meet and truly one of kind and originator of the Peace Alliance) that I would come to the dinner as he asked.
Needless to say, it was pretty evangelical. I was sat next to Pastor Agu on my left and Labour council leader (for now) Charles Adje – and had a really interesting evening. Pastor Agu had been a lawyer before he saw the light. I was expounding to him the difficulty I have with making a leap of faith. Can’t do it. Not my thing. But having been to a couple of black evangelical church services – you have to say they have something engaging. You can almost feel the spirit move – even if you are not religious like me. Anyway – Pastor Agu was telling me about his conversion – and how he had had a misspent youth. A young lady (later to be his wife) invited him to one of these churches. Being keen on her he went. And after a few visits thought he would give it the same try that he had given to all the vices when young. He tried them – so he would try this. And it happened for him. I understand from Nims that Pastor Agu can hold 30,000 people in his thrall when he gets going. Very charismatic guy.
Not so struck with Luis Pilau himself. He spoke for over half an hour and it’s just not my thing – but the whole evening was quite interesting and thought provoking.
On the tube on the way home, had a thought about my estate agents idea – instead of having 17 different premises in Highgate Village taken up with estate agents I had speculated about having them share premises. In fact, there is an office block to rent at the bottom of the village. They could all get in there and share service. It would be fabulous for the punters and fabulous for their expenses! Anyway – the point I was mulling over is that there are actually places where different firms share premises already – e.g. in airports – where space is at a premium too! So – not so far fetched after all!