Since Maurice returned to New Zealand the Friday before last its been nose to the grindstone.
Monday, Matt Lister and Philip Malpass of Constellation came to lunch, at which the discussion centred round the use of cheap wines as loss leaders by supermarkets, which I intend to pursue.
Then fielded Sue Miller's question on the Government's plan to create a vast database of all mobile telephone calls and intermet accesses, since reported to have been dropped from the Queen's Speech.
In the evening we had a rehash of the US Presidential election over dinner, with Phil Krone, who was staying overnight, JW, returned from Denver that morning, and his friend Mark, who had been mainly in Augusta.
Tuesday the Eritrean Ambassador came to lunch at the House. I fielded a question by George Foulkes on countries with visa-free access for visitors to the UK. Then tea with Shadia Syed, who is returning to Bangladesh to present English-languade news bulletins on TV.
Wednesday, to the London Resource Centre in Holloway Road to give the keynote speech at the Irish Travellers' Movement Conference. Then back to the House to field the Bishop of Liverpool's question on drugs in prisons. Tried also to get in on the next question on indeterminate sentences but was beaten by the clock. Then to a hearing of the All-Party Alcohol Harm Group, questioning experts on the measures now available and changes they would like to see. In the evening, to the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) 15th Anniversary celebration dinner (I'm their President).
Thursday, meeting with Rosemary Burnett of the Guatenala Solidarity Network, and Iduvina Hernandez, Executive Director of the Association for the Study and Promotion of Security in a Democracy (SEDEM), a Guatemalan NGO that promotes reform of the Guatemalan state intelligence services. SEDEM documents threats and intimidation against journalists and human rights defenders, and issues reports on the remilitarization of Guatemalan society, the need for civilian control over internal security, and presidential campaign financing.
In the evening, presided at the launch of a book on the Kurds, commissioned by Delfina Entrecanales of the Delfina Foundation for the KHRP at the SW1 Gallery. Mark Muller and Mark Thomas auctioned framed copies of some of the photographs used in the book and raised £5,000! I bought one, of the two Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani (now President of Iraq) and Massoud Barzani, taken in 1991.
Saturday, at the Stockwell YMCA - a very attractive building, newly decorated - for the Peru Support Group's 15th Anniversary Conference and AGM (I'm President)