Monday, May 11, 2009

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

Noted during my limited surfing this week...

1. 'The police wanted a riot'. A depressing and frightening post from Liberal Conspiracy guest blogger John Q Publican

2.' British victim of Mumbai terror tells of official neglect back in the UK.
I raised this issue of people being victims of terrorism in countries other than their own at the UN Symposium on Victims of Terrorism; so did several other delegates. Terrorism is global. Civilians are attacked as proxies in order to to attack a State. When UK civilians are attacked by terrorists who wish to make a point to the UK, then we owe them all our sympathy and care. Terrorism is not covered by holiday insurance policies either. For God's sake, the treatment of this man is shameful. Sort it out and come up with a policy and a compensation/assistance fund. That this should break during the week of the expenses nest-feathering scandal is particularly disgusting.

Not that parliament is about to utterly collapse into a heap of stinking ordure; much very good work is still done there, and despite general appalling levels of cynicism, I have been impressed and encouraged by the good work of many of the M.Ps that I have met. There needs to be a forensic routing out of the bordering-on-criminal behaviour of some, and a cultural step-change, but it is stupid to throw the baby out with the bathwater and if we lose all confidence in and respect for our parliament forever, then we have colluded in the trashing of our own imperfect but still precious democracy - and we may find it only gets worse in the long and short term. To show that not all is lost, here's a cheering example of recent feisty debate.

3. Andrew Mackinlay, Labour, Hansard, during last week's debate on the 2008 Intelligence and Security Committee report

'I will tell you what happens, Madam Deputy Speaker. During a Cabinet reshuffle, Ministers are called in, and the Prime Minister—Mr. Blair or the current one—says, “I am awfully sorry, but I need your job.” The Minister’s face falls. Human nature being what it is, there is great disappointment. I do not mean this in any nasty way, but there is an immediate reduction in salary and the loss of all the privileges that go with ministerial office. The Prime Minister says, “Look, don’t be so depressed.” The Minister says, “Why not? I’m losing my job.” The Prime Minister says, “Well, Porton Down has come up with a thing called Cabinet cryonics.” The Minister says, “What does that mean?” The Prime Minister says, “Well, basically, you take a slug of this and for about 14 months you go into a freezer—the chairmanship of the Security and Intelligence Committee.” “Then what happens?” “Then we give you this, you take it, and you emerge as the Minister of State for defence procurement”—or the Secretary of State for Wales, or the Minister for housing and construction. That is what happens, and it is very reassuring.'
Ouch. Heh. Hmmm. We shall see. The second ISC report into 7/7 is out on Tuesday 19th May. I have high hopes of it but they have been dashed before. More of which anon.

Present depressing circumstances notwithstanding, I do not want public-spirited individuals to be put off joining the police or from going into political life, and I don't suppose anyone else does either. If good people lose hope and start to despair, then all is lost. How much of this thuggery and skulduggery has always gone on is debatable: the difference now is digital. Hundreds of cameras and camera-phones, the Freedom of Information Act and a passionate journalist-campaigner, Heather Brooke, the unstoppable internet and 24 hour news channels scrutinising, commenting, roaring away, and those caught with their sticky hands on the raised baton, or in the taxpayer's pockets are caught out, lurching, blinking and flinching, as they start to realise that the world has changed.

When things move so fast, some will stumble and fall, some will feel sick but cling on and some will be exhilarated. One thing's for sure, we live in interesting times.

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