Sunday, 13 January 2008

Equal Opportunities for All and Peter Hain

Saturday was brilliant for three reasons: Manchester United beat Newcastle 6:0; me being invited to an event in Swansea to bring the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All to an end and a long chat in my small car on the way back to Cardiff with Piero from Refugee Voice Wales concerning the tragic case of Ama Sumani who has been removed to Ghana. I was on BBC's Welsh news discussing the issue again.

The Swansea event was chaired well by Tanni Grey-Thompson who brought out the best of her panel: Brian Gibbons; Uzo Iwobi; Alan Schwartz,; Saleem Kidwai and Sasha Smith. What devolved Wales has done in facilitating a change of climate around equalities gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction. The Welsh Assembly Government team are to be congratulated for this closing event. Well done!

Tanni Grey-Thompson is also a champion in more than one meaning of the word. All the panelists were good and upbeat. Sasha, with her Goth identity, was just brilliant in opening up the world of a young person with disabilities. Many, many thanks for that.

Being with old and new friends and colleagues who are engaged with the equalities world gives me a real inner glow. Frequently as a Christian, it is where I feel the warm presence of God against my face at its most discernible. Being with so many Welsh Muslims friends also helps. I know where they are coming from with the certainties of their faith. That certainty makes me feel safe in their frequently generous company.

On Sunday I went to preach in a Caerphilly Welsh language church. The welcome was really warm and I appreciated the opportunity to visit a church I had never been to before. That was interesting - so was using my Tom Tom to find the place. I arrived on time rather than in time.

The Sunday papers were full of the difficulties of Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Wales. With such coverage, I understand why the public now have such a low view of politicians. Their apparent money-ridden world seems so removed from the realities of many people's lives - especially those who are vulnerable.

For what it's worth, I very much hope that Peter Hain survives if it's shown during the coming days that all this kerfuffle flows from what he was responsible for and has to apologise for within the overall obligation of those who hold responsibility - rather than for anything he intended to do or could be immediately blamed for.

Overall, he's been good for Wales as a Secretary of State and that maters more to me than the blood thirst of London's journalistic pack. OK - Peter Hain's campaign monies could keep the likes of Ama Sumani alive for a little longer. If it had not been for the xenophobia of the London press pack leading politicians into poor or hasty policies, I don't think the question would have arisen at all. Humanitarian concern would have prevailed in better and more honourable days.

I just wish more politicians would lead. Far too many are just led - even to the point of political slaughter. Whatever is thrown to the London press pack will never be given back in loyalty or support - and there is no end to the beast's appetite.

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