Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Cobra II

This morning, on yet another train trip between Cardiff Central and London Paddington for a church work related meeting, I started to read Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's book Cobra II -The Inside Story of The Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.

It will take me several trips to get through it all. The Economist described the work as 'magisterial' and they're right.

This was on the day when most of the papers were full of Gordon Brown's visit to Camp David to meet with President Bush. The Prime Minister seemed polite but a little distant. That was OK with me as were the implied mutterings about an eventual withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

If the Populus poll published in The Times today is to be believed, things are looking good for Gordon Brown. He has established a clear 6 point lead over his rival.

Life used to be much better for the PR aware David Cameron who still marks highly for charisma. The summer rains seemed to have washed away much of his early poll popularity. I'm far from convinced that heeding the call from a growing list of ageing Tory grandees to return to a traditional ranting about immigration and Europe would change David Cameron's fortunes.

Public support is a viciously fickle thing I think. Most new leaders have an initial boost the papers say knowingly today. There is, given the passage of time, a certain inevitability about the eventual fading away of all positive approval ratings - even Gordon Brown's approval ratings. People alas just get tired of people.

When that waning does come, will broadcasters reel out once again the unfortunate pictures of Brown being taken for a ride in an open golf buggy by the now terminally unpopular George Bush? I fear so. That falling away will inevitably be accompanied by less than favourable photos and video clips. Papers don't make the news. They just follow it.

I remembered yet again that it was the decision of Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, to follow Bush to war in Iraq that compelled me then to join millions on the streets of London to proclaim boldly "not in my name" one Saturday afternoon in 2003.

Things after that day of mass protest would never be the same again for the UK's former Prime Minister - even though he would later win a third general election. He won because he wasn’t really challenged by Llanelli's own Michael Howard who did rant about immigration and Europe.

For me as for many others, perceptions of a political leader changed that day in London. They would never be the same again. So far, as for many others according to the polls, Mr Brown has succeeded in holding my attention. How long he keeps my attention and my equivocal approval depends on what happens next.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Displaced People in Action

Tonight something important in my life came to an end and something new began. The change was just a formality really.

Since 2001 I have been involved with Displaced People in Action or DPIA as it’s known to anyone of importance in the Welsh asylum village.

Funded initially in 2000 by the Diana Fund, DPIA completed some crucial work with asylum seeking children and their families. I became its Chair in 2002 and since then we have employed some fantastic people to carry on the work in terms of children’s activities, volunteering and community development as well as placement in work schemes. Tonight, it was recorded that our refugee doctors training scheme is going from strength to strength. Some 85 doctors have registered with the scheme and a good number of them are now working in the NHS. The scheme was made possible through money from the Welsh Assembly Government.

For good bureaucratic reasons we decided to kill DPIA off and create something new imaginatively called DPIA Ltd. It will be a new body for a new era. The asylum seekers and the refugees are still there but we don’t hear so much about them any more. I guess with the advent of eastern European migrants we have found somebody new to be bothered about.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Didn't Go To Church Today

Following the example of some of my political friends at the National Assembly for Wales - especially Peter Black AM (Liberal Democrat) I have decided to give a go at blogging. So here goes...

I meant to go to church today but didn't. I started the day instead with a quick trip to the BBC's studios for Radio Cymru's Welsh language Bwrw Golwg program. I was really pleased to see two friends in the studio who are both doctors, Hefin Jones and Dewi Arwel Hughes. Neither would be of any use if I fell ill in the studio 'though. Hefin has a doctorate in something to do with bugs or biology I think. Dewi has a doctorate in something to do with God. I remembered being on a church conference with Hefin in Brussels a few years ago. He spotted an insect crawling across the dinner table. He instantly declared that it was a female. I still remember the look on his face after I quite nievely asked him how he knew. Dewi and I discussed the events at Skanda Vale during the week and Shambo the bullock's slaughter. The community there and those who farmed in that vicinity are still very much in my mind and prayers. So are the Welsh Assembly Government officials who were involved in the issue.

Dewi got involved in a debate on air about the differnce between a bull and a bullock. He should know something about the differnce. He wrote a book called Castrating Culture. It's a really good book on ethnicity and living on the margins.