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30 July 2007

GB meets GB

George W Bush
Gordon Brown
As I write this UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is meeting with US President George W Bush at Camp David.

It has been said that the only thing these two men have in common is their initials!

It is to be hoped that they find something more in common than just this. Whatever one thinks of the US President (and anyone who has met me or has read my garbage knows that I don't think much of him) the relationship between Great Britain and the USA is important. Any British Prime Minister should seek to maintain a good working relationship with whoever is the US President, but it is also important that it is not the kind of relationship enjoyed (if that is the right word) between "Dubya" and erstwhile Prime Minister Tony Blair.

To assert that Blair was Bush's "poodle" would be an understatement, and Blair's anxiety to please and to blend in with the Bush style (including the blue jeans and the cowboy swagger) was positively cringe-making.

I was amused the other day to read one journalist's view that Brown would certainly adopt a different style, including that of dress, in that he only had two Prime Ministerial modes of dress -
1. A suit.
2. A suit without a tie.
He was in mode No.1 in the Camp David golf buggy today, and so, in fact, was George Bush.

My hope is that Brown will pursue a tough line on a constructive Iraq exit policy. An Oxfam report out today states that hunger and disease are spreading in Iraq as violence masks a deepening humanitarian crisis. The charity said 28 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished, 15 percent of Iraqis regularly cannot afford enough to eat and 70 percent lack clean drinking water, all sharp increases since 2003.

"The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition amongst children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people," Oxfam director Jeremy Hobbs said.
"The fighting and weak Iraqi institutions mean there are severe limits on what humanitarian work can be carried out. Nevertheless more can and should be done to help the Iraqi people," he said.

Two million Iraqis have been forced to flee the country since 2003, and at least as many have been displaced within Iraq. So much for deposing an evil dictator and rebuilding the country.

It ain't happening.

23 July 2007


The UK is struggling to deal with the most serious flooding in living memory; the other week it was South and East Yorkshire suffering, now it is Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire. Thousands of homes are under water, and ironically many of them are without water to drink because a water treatment plant has also gone under. The submersion of an electricity sub-station has compounded the misery for those who now find themselves without either water or power. The rivers Severn and Thames are still rising, with the worst to come, and many people near or in Oxford have been evacuated to a sports stadium. South-west London is said to be the next in line, as the Thames continues to rise. More heavy rain is forecast for the London area, exacerbating the situation, and this is set to combine with high tides.

All this coincides with a government announcement that they will still be going ahead with the planned development of hundreds of thousands of new homes in the south east to meet demand, many of which will be build in known flood plains. Of course it is now stated that building will only take place if proper flood defences and adequate drainage can be put in place.

Surely one solution when building in such areas would be to build higher footings, i.e., up to the damp course, say about 3 or 4 feet higher than is current practice. Why do our houses have to sit at ground level? Is this such an obvious and simple solution that nobody will put it into practice? Probably.

19 July 2007

Anglo-American Special Relationship

I have just had the pleasure of entertaining two American friends for a few days and showing them some of the features of life in England. As I had been under the impression that we had become a more brutish and uncivilised society in recent years it was gratifying to be told by my American friends that in their opinion the opposite was the case. It was also good to know (considering the bad reputation we used to have) that our food and drink were quite acceptable!

I was brought up short one day with the question, "What, mainly, does Britain make?" Thinking about this I was faced with the unpalatable realisation that these days the answer to that question is "Not much".

In this connection it dawned on me when I took my friends to York that only a few years ago in this great City there was a beet sugar processing factory, three major confectionary factories, a railway engineering and carriage works, and a factory manufacturing glass bottles from recycled glass. All these have now closed. In other parts of the country we have watched coal mining all but disappear. The same goes with iron and steel production, and the small amount of steel manufacturing we still have is now owned by an Indian company. The British car industry has collapsed. We are still making good cars, but for companies owned by the Japanese or the Germans.

I wonder, therefore, in what way is our economy "booming" (terrorist bombs aside, that is) for apparently it is "booming". Have we just turned into a successful giant "Theme Park" for tourists? Apart from that, then the rest of our success seems to be mostly down to financial services.

Anyway, this is all depressing me, and I want to be optimistic about the future, and remind myself that the two Americans who came to see us, and who gave us such a memorable and pleasurable time, enjoyed their experience of my country.

07 July 2007

Khalil Ahmed - should he burn in hell?

Khalil Ahmed, one of the two men who tried to drive a mobile bomb into Glasgow Airport's terminal building, and then set fire to himself, is now in hospital suffering from a life-threatening level of burns. Some might say serve him right if he dies, but in my opinion It is devoutly to be wished that his life can be saved.

He (and others like him) want to die, therefore I want him to live and suffer the consequences of his actions.