Saturday, May 22, 2010

This week

Monday, a visit from old friends Akin Birdal and Akif Wan, with Ali Has, to discuss the current situation of the Kurds in Turkey, and particularly the crackdown on the Kurdish political party the DTP, and its 20 MPs. Turkey is still a long way short of compliance with EU requirements on freedom of expression, assembly and association, and there needs to be more work on making Praliaments, media in Europe aware of these problems. The EU enlargement commissioner does produce a report towards the end of each year on the progress Turkey is making towards satisfying the conditions, but this has to cover everything, not just human rights.

Tuesday there was a meeting of LibDem peers for a discussion on the new working arrangements for us as part of the coalition. The immediate question of where LibDems should sit in the chamber was that we should occupy the benches nearest the Speaker on the Government side. Traditionally the Bishops occupy the front two benches of that group, which will not be a convenient arrangement, and I do wonder if they could be persuaded to move. Their attendance record is not wonderful and they don't contribute much to the proceedings except when they have a special interest to promote. In the Bill to replace the existing unelected Members, promised in the coalition programme, I assume that the Bishops will be phased out, as would be logical, so it ought not to matter to them where they sit.

Wednesday, Victoria came to Flodden Road to help me with paperwork, and for the time being it looks quite tidy. There was a visit from NDT TV to interview me about the current political situation.

At 00.01 Thursday morning we had a call from JW, who was on the train from Gatwick to Victoria, asking to be picked up. Lindsay had thought he was arriving 24 hours latter, and we would have picked him up at the airport, as he had his bicycle in an enormous cardboard carton, a very heavy case, his guitar, and a smaller case. It was quite a struggle between three of us dragging all these things from the station to where we had parked the Rover in a nearby side street, and getting them all into the back of the car with one of the seats down.

Then at 09.45, a visit to King's College Hospital to assess my abdominal aortic aneurysm. (AAA) Although the web references say that surgery would be considered for patients with an AAA of 5.5 or above, and the last reading in January was only 4.95, Mr C said the older the patient the greater the risks of surgery, so for the over-80s surgery wouldn't be the preferred option if the size of the AAA was less than 6 cm. But the reason for my referral was to rule out the aorta as the source of the blood loss causing anaemia, so although he thought it very unlikely, Mr C said he would arrange for me to have an MRI scan. He must have acted immediately, because a letter arrived this morning giving me an appointment for the scan on June 1.

Friday, a visit to Canaty Wharf to see my old from Manjit Singh, the Transport for London (TfL) manager of the Underground there. It must be one of the busiest stations on the system, handling 100,000 passengers a day, with further increases to come, as more skyscrapers go up in the area, and the Crossrail interchange comes into use. Manjit has 155 staff, and the control room has a bank of screens allowing his staff to monitor what's happening anywhere in his system. Of course, he also has communication links with Underground headquarters as well. Manjit has won many awards for his proficiency as a manager, having made substantial cuts in his budget already, before the present crisis. But even so, his operations are not exempt from the staff reductions TfL are having to make now.

Then back to Flodden Road for a meeting with Sandra Kabir, Executive Director of BRAC, Maher Anjum of the Diaspora Volunteering Alliance (DVA), and Ishfaq Ahmed, Director of Kashmir International Relief Fund, to talk about means of expanding the work of the DVA. The idea is to enlist qualified volunteers from diaspora communities to assist projects in their countries of origin for reaching the Millenium Development Goals.

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