- The company he keeps
- No democracy, please, we're British
- A word in your ear
The company he keeps
During the last ESF preparatory meeting in Paris we found out that George Galloway had signed a petition "for the liberation of Tariq Aziz" who was captured in April by the invading US forces. Tariq Aziz was long a member of Saddam Hussein's government, its public face in the west. Why would any socialist expend a second in indignation at the US's extra-judicial treatment of Aziz?
And when Galloway signed the petition he joined dodgy company. The petition was organised by AmitiÉs Franco-Irakienne, an organisation set up by the French nationalist politician Jean-Pierre ChevËnement and one Gilles Munier. Gilles Munier, ex-member of a far-right group "Jeune Europe", also helped set up the French-Iraq Association for Economic Cooperation, promoting France's business interests with Iraq-at the expense of America's. France and many European countries have this strand of nationalist politics, that is anti-US above all. Think on.
Galloway has been accused of having more or less close ties with Hussein's regime. Munier is an out-and-out apologist for Hussein. He was behind the publication in France of the novel Zabiba et le roi, purporting to be by Hussein himself. When Saddam Hussein, the only candidate, won Iraq's presidential election in October 2002, Munier said his 99.96% "approval rating" was "an act of allegiance to the chief... it wasn't a subterfuge but a democratic advance". And Saddam Hussein didn't murder 5,000 Kurdish people in a gas attack at Halabja, that was the Iranians.
No democracy, please, we're British
Globalise Resistance/SWP has put together a bid to host the next European Social Forum in London in 2004 (the other bidders are Athens and Vienna). GR's bid partner is CND. Together they got SERTUC and Ken Livingstone on board before they threw their hat into the ring at the last ESF preparatory meeting in Paris. They failed to inform anyone else very much in Britain that they were putting a bid together.
Promoters of the London Social Forum who have friends ëin high places', on the ESF preparation committee, said that they were in favour of the ESF coming to London but only if the SWP isn't running the show in its usual undemocratic fashion. This has caused enough waves that Jonathan Neale (GR/SWP) and Kate Hudson (CND chair) consented to come to an open meeting in London on Sunday 19 October to present the bid.
Social Forums are in their infancy in Britain, but the SWP is doing what it can to strangle them at birth. Representatives of the Manchester People's Assembly/Social Forum testified to that on Sunday; the SWP set up a stall outside the launch of the London Social Forum two weeks ago but refused to come in because it didn't want to give the forum ëcredibility'.
Alex Callinicos is arguing on the UK ESF email list that Social Forums can play no useful role in Britain when we already have... the Stop the War Coalition.
Shurely shome contradiction, is there not, in the SWP offering to host the next ESF? You couldn't get Jonathan Neale to see it, though, on Sunday. If the Social Forums got more people involved, he said, then perhaps Globalise Resistance would support them.
The Government has scrapped plans for the Queen and US President George W Bush to take part in a pomp-and-glory down-the-Mall-type London parade when Bush visits the UK next month. They fear angry protests.
Such a procession-golden carriages and plumed horses-would be usual for a guest of such eminence, of course.
The White House is said to be greatly disappointed. They saw it as a great photo opportunity, apparently: next year's presidential race is already well under way.
Bush is going to have to travel by helicopter. Perhaps they'll decorate it with a bit of pre-Xmas season tinsel.
A word in your ear
The following companies sponsored the following meetings at Labour Party Conference
- NestlÉ (baby milk scandals): Foreign Policy Centre meeting. Speakers: Jack Straw, Hilary Benn, Peter Hain
- Unum Provident (purveyor of disability and illness insurance): Institute of Public Policy Research meeting on disability with Unum Provident UK corporate director speaking alongside ministers
- Barclays Bank (crap credit cards): "Labour can bridge the inequality gap" Social Market Foundation meeting with Peter Mandelson and Martin Mosley, Barclays Bank executive speaking
- Finance and Leasing Association (represents personal credit companies): Consumer Affairs minister Gerry Sutcliffe speaking on consumer debt
- Provident Financial: Foreign Policy Centre meeting on capping exorbitant interest rates for poor countries
- Mobile Operators Association: Social Market Foundation meeting on how planning permission can be speeded up
- WH Smith (purveyor of books on how to pass your SATS): Institute of Public Policy Research discussing education funding
- Go-ahead Group (Operator of Thameslink): Alistair Darling and David Begg speaking on "10 year transport plan" alongside Chris Moyes, Go-Ahead group boss
- Arriva: Transport Minister Tony McNulty and David Begg "The next step for transport"
- BUPA: Health Minister Rosie Winterton "Taking the pulse of the NHS"
- Superdrug: DEMOS "Democratising health" breakfast seminar
- Sky TV: "Charter Review and the future of television". Tessa Jowell, Culture Minister and Dawn Airey, Sky Managing director. (But no BBC representative!)
- Camelot: Tessa Jowell "Is the lottery working properly?" with Diane Thompson, Camelot chief executive