Monday, May 31, 2010

New atrocity in Lahore

Unbelievably, terrorists have attacked the Jinnah hospital in Lahore, where the injured from Friday's massacres at the two Ahmadi mosques were being treated. They were dressed in police uniforms, and it was surmised that their main purpose was to rescue the severely wounded terrorist who had been captured on Friday. Apparently he was in the intensive care ward, and they didn't find him, but 12 people were killed in the operation, including five police officers. How disastrously incompetent the Punjab authorities are, and how high a price the people are paying for their years of appeasing the Deobandis.

Memory Lane

The new situation in Parliament reminded me of an occasion when I had spoken from the Conservative front bench, on March 26, 1970. It was in fact the last time I spoke in the Commons, and the last sitting before the general election of that year. Seeing that there was nobody on the Tory benches, I decided to make a speech to get that on the record, as was helpfully underlined by Mr Speaker:

Who is the real Muslim

Who is the real Muslim? The question this article puts to the conscience of the world answers itself, because while the worshippers still alive during the infamous attack in Lahore are crouching among the dead and wounded, their reaction is to pray for the blessings of Allah on the followers of the Prophet.

Most people, and most Muslims, are quite unable to comprehend how it is that young men can be indoctrinated with such hatred against those labelled as 'heretics' or 'apostates' that they can be induced to kill the 'heretics' indiscriminately in their places of worship and to glory in such appalling deeds. As ever-increasing armed might is being deployed against al-Qa'eda and its allies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia, there is a never-ending supply of recruits to their murderous ideology from the madrassas funded by Middle East oil money. The international community, and particularly the governments of Islamic states need to act against the teaching and advocacy of hatred and intolerance, and to stop up the flow of money that nourishes it.

Today there has been yet another horrible targeted assassination of an Ahmadi, see

This carnage will only cease when the ideology that promotes it is cut off at the source.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Telling editorial from the newspaper Dawn

No condemnation
Dawn Editorial
Monday, 03 May, 2010
There is little doubt that there still exist, across Pakistan, mosques, schools of religious learning and other religious centres that continue to spew hate. Unless that infrastructure of hate is shut down, and clearly some in attendance at the Lahore conference would oppose such a move, Pakistan will never win its struggle for internal peace. - Photo by AP.

An extraordinary gathering of top Deobandi leaders was arranged in Lahore in the hope of getting religious leaders, scholars and politicians to speak with one voice in condemning, with no ifs or buts, suicide bombing and militancy in Pakistan.

The reason for the gathering was that the government and army have realised it is an important part of the counter-insurgency strategy to isolate the militants ideologically and expose them for what they are, i.e. murderers using religion as a cover to grab power and further their millenarian beliefs. Unfortunately, though perhaps not unpredictably, the Deobandi leadership baulked, preferring instead to focus on the ‘other’ causes of militancy in the country. These ‘other’ reasons are well-known: the American presence in Afghanistan, the lack of a ‘true’ Islamic system of governance in Pakistan, the Musharraf government’s support for the ‘evil’ Americans, drone strikes in the tribal areas, etc. In short, everyone but the people actually using bombs, suicide bombers, IEDs and beheadings to kill and maim Pakistanis are to blame for the security crisis in the country.

Not everyone who is a critic of American foreign policy in the region is a fanatic. Not everyone who questions the role of the Pakistan Army and state in the current state of affairs is a religious ideologue. Not everyone who supports talks and peace negotiations is a militant. But when a group of religious leaders comes together to discuss the issue of militancy, it is odd, to say the least, that it can find a voice to condemn everyone other than the militants themselves. Of course, not all those who attended the Deobandi conference in Lahore could be labelled as extremists. Indeed, observers have noted that ‘moderate’ voices were present, but in the end they were perhaps too intimidated by the hardliners in attendance to speak their minds.

Therein lies the great danger that still lurks inside Pakistan. Experts in counter-insurgency have long pointed out that a military response alone will not win this war against militancy. What’s needed is for the infrastructure of hate and religious bigotry to also be shut down. Branding all madressahs as incubators of hate and violence is wrong. But there is little doubt that there still exist, across Pakistan, mosques, schools of religious learning and other religious centres that continue to spew hate. Unless that infrastructure of hate is shut down, and clearly some in attendance at the Lahore conference would oppose such a move, Pakistan will never win its struggle for internal peace.

Update on Lahore terror

Up-date on the massacre of Ahmadi worshippers in Lahore

Lahore, Rabwah; May 30, 2010: The death toll from the terror attacks on the two mosques of Ahmadiyya community in Lahore is 94, and not 79 as given by the police to the press. The number of injured, however, is much higher than was assessed initially; their number exceeds125. Among the casualties, 27 dead and 34 injured were in the Model Town mosque, while the rest resulted in the carnage at the mosque in Garhi Shahu.

The dead include Judge ® Munir Ahmad Sheikh, the Amir of the Lahore Ahmadiyya community, Major General ® Nasir Ahmad, president of the Model Town chapter, Mr Mahmud Shad, a missionary, Mr Ejaz Nasrulla, a nephew of Late Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, former President of the International Court of Justice at Den Haag, Mr Muhammad Aslam Bharwana, a senior railway official and a number of community officials.

Most of the dead, when alive, had opted to be buried in Rabwah, therefore soon after the attack, over 90 graves were dug up in the town’s graveyard. The dead were buried after their funeral prayers in groups. Fifty burials have taken place. The program of a joint big burial ceremony was abandoned for security concerns.

Rabwah wears a sad look. Markets, trade centers and shops remained closed, as the dead bodies kept arriving from Lahore. Funeral ceremonies still continue.

The community, however, did not take to the street, take out processions or stage a protest in Rabwah. It is not the practice with Ahmadis. Instead, they have turned to God and continue to pray for themselves and the countrymen in general. They were guided by a statement from their supreme leader, the Khalifa tul Masih V: “The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat is a peace loving true Muslim Jamat. Thus there will be no improper reaction from any Ahmadi. Our salvation lies in our supplication to God Almighty and we believe that He has, and always will, help us”. The head of the Pakistani community, Mirza Khurshid Ahmad echoed the same sentiment in a press conference on May 29.

As for the terrorists, Tehrik Taliban Punjab has claimed the responsibility. It is confirmed by those who survived the massacre in Garhi Shahu that the terrorists faced no resistance from the police during their attack, and had sufficient time to even examine the dead bodies in the main hall and kill those who were still alive. They shouted slogan of Khatme Nabuwat Zinda bad, (Long live End of Prophethood). According to eye witnesses, four of them managed to escape after the carnage.

The attack commenced at 13:40, and the police eventually entered the mosque at 16:10. As such, the terrorist had two and half hours to finish the job they came for.

The federal government and human rights concerns have confirmed that the provincial government had been informed of terrorist threat to the Ahmadiyya community. The Ahmadiyya headquarters had kept the provincial and federal governments regularly informed of the activities and open threats of the anti-Ahmadiyya clerics, and warned against the sort of tragedy that eventually materialized in Lahore.

The incident has evoked unequivocal condemnation from all sections of the society in Pakistan, including Mr Nawaz Sharif, Mr Shahbaz Sharif and leaders of politico-religious parties.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lahore terror

Dreadful news this morning about coordinate terrorist attacks on the two main Ahmadiyya Muslim mosques in Lahore, Pakistan. I wrote to Alastair Burt MP, the Minister who deals with south Asia at the FCO, as follows:

You will have heard of the ghastly tragedy unfolding in Lahore, I know, and I’m writing to ask if the Government will take the lead in mobilising international pressure on Pakistan for a determined policy to remove the sources of terrorism, starting with the anti-Ahmadiyya laws, but I would also try to get them to pass new laws making incitement to religious hatred a criminal offence.

Please see attached copy of a statement I issued to the PA and BBC a couple of hours ago.

The press statement, issued at lunchtime was as follows:

Statement by Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group UK, on the violence against Ahmadiyya Muslim worshippers and their mosques in Lahore, Pakistan

This morning we had reports of coordinated attacks against the two main Ahmadiyya Muslim mosques in Lahore while they were crowded with worshippers for Friday prayers.

The mosques, Baitul Zikr in Garhi Shahu and Baitul Noor in Model Town Block C, were targeted by a previously unknown group calling itself either Al-Qa'idah Al-Jihad Punjab Wing, or Tehrike Taliban . They arrived at around 13.00 local time, as Friday prayers were starting. Preliminary reports from Model Town, where police have recaptured the mosque, indicate that 23 worshippers were killed, two terrorists who blew themselves up, and two were captured. . Some 40 people were injured, 12 seriously.

At the Baitul Zikr mosque 41 bodies of worshippers have been removed so far, and a gun battle continues between the police and terrorists after four hours, with the worshippers trapped inside.

The Parliamentary Human Rights Group recently sent a mission to Pakistan to investigate the treatment of religious minorities, and their preliminary report, issued just before the election, called attention to the widespread intimidation and violence perpetrated against the Ahmadis.

In Punjab, and Lahore in particular, the Muslim League provincial government is aligned with extremist groups such as the Khatme Nabuwwat, which openly incite religious hatred and violence. This atrocious attack on worshippers at their Friday prayers was an organised crime waiting to happen, and the federal government must take responsibility for its failure to deal with the incessant barrage of hate speech by these groups against the peaceful Ahmadiyya Muslims.

It should be noted that Pakistan has enacted specific anti-Ahmadiyya laws – the 1984 Ordinance XX of the dictator Zia ul-Haq – and this is the root cause of the universal discrimination and repression which culminates in assassinations of Ahmadis and repeated acts of terrorism against their places of worship.

I shall be asking the Foreign Office to mobilise the international community to assist Pakistan in combating the sources of terrorism, starting with reforms of the law which incites it.

Pakistan has suffered a crescendo of terrorist attacks in 2009 and 2010, particularly on the religious minorities, with uncounted hundreds killed and injured, and huge damage to the economy. The response of the government has been to amend the law by presidential ordinance to allow suspects to be detained for 90 days without access to a court, and to make confessions to the police or military admissible as evidence, though frequently they are extracted by means of torture. The nurseries of terrorism, the hate organisations such as the Khatme Nabuwwat and the Saudi-funded Salafist madrassas, remain untouched and seemingly untouchable. The international community must help Pakistan to confront the ideology which threatens its very existence.

19.00 Friday evening: I just heard, to my great sorrow and dismay, that among those murdered by the terrorists in Lahore were the National Ameer Mr M A Sheikh and General (Retd) Nisar Ahmad.

Saturday morning: the death toll has risen to 93, but with another 110 people injured and in hospital, this is not the final score. The Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani on Saturday vowed not to bow down to extremism and terrorism and to launch a military operation at any place that served as a safe haven of such elements. But when seven Christians were burnt alive and 50 houses destroyed by a mob in the town of Gojra last August, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Minister of Punjab visited the site immediately, not only announcing an inquiry but promising compensation to the victims and help with rebuilding. Will the authorities fund the rebuilding of the two mosques, and will they compensate the injured and the relatives of the Ahmadi martyrs? Maybe not, when the Punjab provincial government sponsored a conference of the International Khatme Nabuwwat in Lahore, the organisation mainly responsible for inciting hatred against the Ahmadis, as recently as April 12. As an editorial in the newspaper Dawn put it on March 26

But the authorities appear to be approaching the problem as a narrow counter-terrorism issue. The wider problem is the infrastructure of hate and religious intolerance that is thriving in the province, often under official patronage. No matter how many militants the state captures or kills, there will always be more if the pipeline of hate continues to churn out brainwashed foot soldiers. The Punjab authorities must find a way, and the will, to shut down the pipeline of hate and intolerance.


According to the Xinhua News Agency (,

"Retired Lieutenant General Talaat Masood, a seasoned defense analyst, said that Pakistan has a long history of sectarian violence and Qadaynis were opposed in history".

"The militants groups in Pakistan act in accordance with their ideological orientation and training and there are certain groups that consider killing of infidels or non-believers as good, and all those who are not in line with their believes are considered as infidels," he added.

This reinforces my firm belief that treating sectarian atrocities as matters that concern only the police is a serious error.and that the suppliers of the ideological fuel motivating the terrorists needs to be tackled at source. Xinhua adds that the one terrorist arrested, believed to be aged between 15 and 18, was a student of Karachi-based religious seminary. The indoctrination of young men by extremist madrassas, and incitement by extremist organisations such as the Khatme Nabuwwat, will tear Pakistan apart if the government - and provincial governments, particularly in Punjab - don't act promptly against them.

Three UN experts - Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Asma Jahangir, Independent Expert on minority issues Gay McDougall and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston - have also now said that incitement to hatred must be tackled. They say there were plenty of warning signs that went unheeded; one of those was the preliminary report of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group mission to Pakistan in April.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also issued a statement, merely reiterating their concern regarding the level of armed violence and its impact on the people of Pakistan. (

In an editorial as recent as May 24, the newspaper Dawn made the point

"This government would be issuing a political statement in support of the minorities if it were to work towards repealing the blasphemy law. A campaign is also needed to make people aware of the virtues of tolerance. Without a change in the public mindset the current environment of hostility will remain". (

Islamabad desperately needs the vision and determination to confront extremism, not only by repealing the blasphemy laws, but prohibiting hate speech and closing down the madrassas that foment and encourage the Salafist ideology of hatred. In the absence of those qualities, the people of Pakistan face an uncertain and perilous future, and the cancer of extremism would spread to the diaspora, with terrible implications for the rest of the world as well.

Report from KCH Vascular Surgery Department

Department of Surgery King's College Hospital

Vascular Surgery

We received a referral for Lord Avebury from the haematologists. This gentleman has a MALT lymphoma diagnosed in 2006 and has recently been running a low haemoglobin of around 10. . We were asked to see him to exclude any source of bleeding from his arteries. He is known to have an aortic aneurysm which is palpable on examination but it is not tender. He has not had any symptoms of leakage such as acute abdominal pain or flank pain. He has had no haematuria, no obvious source of blood loss in his guts, and he is waiting for an appointment with the gastroenterologists to further investigate that possible source. His most recent aneurysm scan was in January when 1t measured 4.9 cm.

I think the surest way to exclude any bleeding from his aorta to make sure there is no inflammatory aneurysm or fistula is a CT angiogram and I have organised that for him. We will review him with the result.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lindsay's birthday

The State Opening of Parliament was on Tuesday, an occasion to which I never go because it involves dressing up in funny clothes and seeming to pretend that peers are different from the rest of mankind.

Wednesday was Lindsay's birthday, and she had said she wanted flowers, a card, a present and an evening out, all of which I managed to deliver! For the evening out I booked a table at the Prospect of Whitby, an old pub on the river which I think we had visited in the dim and distant past, and JW accompanied us: I kept it a surprise, and Lindsay didn't guess the destination even as we drove through the Rotherhithe tunnel.

The Prospect of Whitby


The original inn on this sue was built in 1520 and was a favourite haunt tor n«it only sailors and fisherman, but also smugglers, thieves and pirates, including- the infamous Captam Kidd earning the: pub its reputation as the "Devils Tavern’ a name that stuck for many years.

'Hanging .Judge Jeffries' was also a regular patron during ihe 17th century. It is said that he would take his lunch on the balcony while watching the hangings taking place at the nearby Execution Dock! A gibbet and hangman's noose stand directly outside the pub in memory of this macabre

customer Another famous patron from this century was Samuel Pepys who became Secretary to the Admiralty and is best known for his diaries tat tell us much of what we- know about London during this period The '1'epys Dining Room"

The ‘Devil’s Tavern bur:ii to the ground in the 1770s and was replaced by the current building, at. which point it was renamed the Prospect of Whitby after a ship that used to moor close by. The original flagstone floor from 1520 still survives today, and ships masts support the internal structure. Resting on old barrels, te pewter-topped bar is thought to be the longest of its type still surviving.

In between, I chaired a meeting at the House on the Kurds of Iran, that was addressed by me, Carol Prunhuber the writer, and Dr Asso Hassan Zadeh, Head of International Relations of the KDP Iran in Europe (see photo below). Its deplorable that there is so little coverage of events in Iranian Kurdistan despite the atrocious human rights violations there by the regime, and we need to think of ways of raising the profile.

Today the debate on the Queen's Speech continued, and in our House there were 49 speakers. We were asked to confine ourselves to 8 minutes so that the House could rise by 19.00, and just managed it. Some went over the limit but one speaker dropped out, and a few others took less than the full 8 minutes. The debate today was opened by Tom McNally, Leader of the LibDems, and his speech was by far the best of the day, with plenty of jokes. I spoke on alcohol harm, and Gypsies, keeping within time, see

The seating arrangements are awkward, because the Bishops have always (they say, since 13-something) occupied the front two benches in the bank to the left of the Government, and we are sitting behind them, so we have no front bench as we had on the other side. I went out for a cup of tea at about 17.00, and when I came back the bishops' benches were empty, so I sat on the second bench. Shortly afterwards the three bishops who had been present earlier trooped back in and joined me.

Speech at Eritrea Independence Day celebration

I congratulate the people of Eritrea most warmly on this 19th Anniversary of their independence, for which they had fought so long and hard. Throughout the seventies I was chairman of the Eritrea Support Group, which campaigned for Eritrea’s independence in Parliament and the media, repeatedly tried to persuade Ministers to support the self-determination of the Eritrean people. We pointed out that self-determination is a right under international law, not only by virtue of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, but also the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in which common Article 1 states:

“All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine heir political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

Ministers would always reply with the mantra

“ we believe that a federal solution would be best for the people of Eritrea”, and I used to ask how they dared to presume to speak thus on behalf of a people who had endured great hardship and loss of life in their attempt at self-determination.

In 1981 I visited Eritrea at the end of the Ethiopian sixth offensive. I travelled via Port Sudan through the desert and then up the ‘Freedom Road’ which was blasted out of the rock up into the highlands, where I stayed at the Nacfa Hilton, a cave behind the front line where at dawn we saw the Antonov bombers dropping their loads on the ruins of Nacfa, where the only building left standing was the tower of the mosque. The corpses of the Ethiopian conscripts killed in a hopeless attack on the cliffs protecting Nacfa were still lying where they had fallen, testifying to the futility of the Derg’s colonialism. The next time I was in Eritrea was as one of the monitors of the independence referendum in April 1993, an event that nobody who was there could ever forget. Not only was there a 99.9% turnout in favour of independence, but also spontaneous expression of the joy people felt at heir achievement. The future was bright, and it looked as though Eritrea with its talented and hardworking people would become a beacon of democracy and prosperity in the Horn of Africa.

But the dream was shattered when Ethiopia launched a fresh war of aggression on the pretence of a dispute over the border between the two countries. After tens of thousands of lives had been lost on both sides, and hundreds of millions of $ had been spent on sophisticated weapons, it was agreed to refer the demarcation to a commission headed by the distinguished British jurist, Eli Lauterpacht, who was a schoolmate of mine 64 years ago. My third visit to Eritrea was at the end of the war in January 2000, when I toured what had been the front line, where I saw the remains of burnt out Ethiopian tanks and heard of the sufferings of people displaced by the fighting, and also of the thousands of Eritreans who had been in Ethiopia at the start of the war and were imprisoned as ‘enemy aliens’. 68,000 Eritreans were deported by the Ethiopians at the end of the war.

Both countries had agreed to accept Judge Lauterpacht’s decision as final, but when the details were published, President Meles found one excuse after another for disputing the findings. Ever since then a swathe of territory all along the border has been denied to agriculture or any other development, and Eritrea has been forced to maintain huge armed forces as a precaution against further military attacks by its bullying neighbour. Eritrea’s trade with Ethiopia has vanished, and the main ports of Massawa and Assab, which are convenient for goods destined for northern Ethiopia, have lost that business. One of the main tasks of the proposed Eritrea-Britain friendship association might be to persuade our new coalition Government, and the EU, to exert far greater pressure on Meles to accept the Lauterpacht award without further equivocation, and to enter into discussions with Eritrea that would enable both countries to reduce their armed forces and demilitarise the frontier.

Speaking of the coalition, the agreement between the two parties was a triumph of compromise, but it doesn’t mean that ordinary members on either side have to abandon principles to which they have devoted a lifetime. We have to be able to criticise elements of the agreement as candid friends, as I intend to do in the Lords debate next week. And similarly, as friends of Eritrea over a period of not just a few days, but of some 40 years, we must have the right to say what we think the government of Eritrea needs to do to cement the relationship between our peoples.

You are all probably familiar with the Foreign Office’s repeated expressions of concern about the lack of accountability and the rule of law in Eritrea, and the violations of legal rights supposedly guaranteed under Eritrean law including particularly, the prohibition of arbitrary and indefinite detention. These matters were raised in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of human rights last year, but consider also the many criticisms by the European Commission, the US State Department, the UN Special Procedures. Eritrea could improve its relations with the rest of the world out of all recognition at a stroke if it addressed these matters, starting with the release of the 11 high ranking officials detained incommunicado and without charge in September 2001. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights have both called for their release, and if any of them are still alive after nearly ten years in the harsh conditions of an Eritrean prison, I hope that when it is established, the proposed Eritrea-UK Friendship Forum will also call for their immediate release.

To end on a happier note, the Forum could be a means of boosting Eritrea’s progress towards meeting the challenging targets of the 2015 Millenium Development Goals. Your Excellency attended the press conference held in the Moses Room at the House of Lords to launch the report of the All-Party Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention, of which I’m joint Chairman; and since then Eritrea has signed up to the global plan to vaccinate all children against this disease, which kills a million children a year. I’m delighted to see that Eritrea has already reduced infant mortality by over 40% between 1990 and 2004[1], and with the adoption of this new preventive measure, which was powerfully endorsed by the World Health Assembly last week, there’s every chance of attaining the two thirds reduction of infant mortality by 2015. In spite of the heavy burdens on their economy created by their menacing neighbour, the Eritrean people are making good progress with the other MDGs too. But above all, I hope the Forum will provide citizens of our two countries with a platform on which to speak honestly about how to better the lives of our peoples.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Speaking at the meeting to celebrate Erirea's Independence Day at the Marble Arch Thistle Hotel, May 25
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Delightful evening at home, with Trish Campbell
Posted by Picasa

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.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Silbury Sun Roll

This year's sun roll down the side of Silbury, courtesy Pete Glastonbury

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gypsies and Travellers

Here is the Conservative-LibDem coalition programme.

I'm getting quite a few emails on Gypsy & Traveller education, so correspondents may find it reassuring to see the statement in the programme under 'Spending Review', that

"We will fund a significant premium for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere"

Since many research studies show that Gypsy & Traveller children are the most deprived of all ethnic minority children, this commitment is very good news.

Tomorrow afternoon an announcement will be made on the division of responsibilities among junior ministers at the DCSF, and there are reasons to hope that an effective person will be appointed to implement the commitment to disadvantaged children.

On the question of ending unauthorised encampments by ensuring that enough land is made available for authorised sites, the LibDems pledged during the election that

' we are not intending to disturb the plans already in place for providing traveller sites'.

One would expect that a LibDem Minister appointed to the DCLG will see that this is honoured. And the joint leaders of the two parties have said they will get on with measures that are agreed, leaving contentious issues aside, meaning that the statement made by Caroline Spelman MP on Travellers in the Conservative manifesto will need to be laid aside..

A late post - with dear Margaret Wingfield's daughter and granddaughter at Nick Clegg's rally in Lewisham during the election campaign
Posted by Picasa

Lunch at the George & Dragon, Downe, after the ceremony

Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

Wing-Cdr Jeff Jefford

Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

Uncle Eric's memorial

Posted by Picasa

Here are Lyulph's photographs of today's ceremony. And here's another set.

And here are Victoria's.

Sunday, May 16

To High Elms, for the rededication of the memorial to my uncle Eric Fox Pitt Lubbock, killed March 11, 1917. Lyulph had organised the event and said a few words of introduction, followed by the Rector of St Giles Church, Farnborough, the Rev Matthew Hughes, who spoke about Eric and blessed the memorial. I then spoke briefly. Uncle Eric was my grandmother’s favourite child, the one she loved with such intensity that she remained in deep mourning from the day he was shot down, for the remaining 30 years of her life. But he lit up the lives of everyone he knew, family, friends, his father’s scientific colleagues, and comrades in the armed forces. My father, who Eric called ‘dear little Moke’, born seven years after Eric, idolised him, and so I bear his name. When my father was little he couldn’t pronounce the name ‘Eric’ and he called him ‘Yay’, a nickname that was transferred to me within the family when I was a child.

Eric hated war, and my grandmother wrote that if his life had been spared, he would have worked for real peace, as his father had done, thoughi in vain. But he joined up from a sense of duty at the beginning of the war, and was in France with the British Expeditionary Force by the end of September 1914. In 1915 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, and the memorial, a representation of the Sopwith Camel in stone, commemorates his service in the RFC, for which he received the Military Cross in 1916. Wing Commander Jeff Jefford, historian of the RFC, was with us today.

The memorial was originally in the family graveyard in the wood just below St Giles’ Church. After my mother died in 1981, the local authority removed all the memorials, to save them from vandalism. Most were relocated in St Giles Church graveyard, but the aeroplane was held in a council depot, presumably because it was considered secular, and also possibly because he was actually buried in Poperinghe, Belgium. After several years it was somehow acquired by a stonemason, Lloyd of Bedwyn in Wiltshire, in a transaction the records of which no longer exist . When John Lloyd closed the business down last year, the contents of his yard including the aeroplane came on the market, and thanks to cousin Roderick Lubbock, we were alerted to the sale. Lindsay and I went down to Great Bedwyn on the day of the auction and I bid for it successfully. The London Borough of Bromley kindly agreed to give it space at their new sustainable environment education centre ('BEECHE') in what used to be the kitchen gardens of High Elms, where uncle Eric and I both lived, and after a few hiccups with the transport it reached its final resting place at his ancestral home. The staff at BEECHE, the officials at the London Borough of Bromley, and the Rector and the Parish Council of St Giles have been wonderfully supportive of the project since we first discussed it with them last autumn. The whole family values enormously our connection with High Elms, and we’re delighted that Eric’s memorial has returned to its rightful home, where it will be treasured by everyone who visits this sacred spot.

Kentish Times article on the return of the memorial:

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A visit to the excellent Alberto at Camberwell Green this morning for a haircut
Posted by Picasa


To Oxford, starting with Underground to Stanmore where Lyulph picked me up in his car. In the morning, I chaired the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund at Balliol, then after lunch to the Department of Engineering Science for their Open Day - an exhibition of projects undertaken by students, followed by two excellent half-hour lectures: Dr Constantin Coussios on Killing tumors with sound: engineering the next generation of cancer therapies, and Dr Ian Reid on Robust visual tracking for visual survellance. Then tea, followed at 16.45 by the 36th Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture by Professor David Mackay FRS, the Chief Scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, on Sustainable Energy - without the hot air. He is in the middle in the photograph, and on his right as you look at the picture is Professor Guy Houlsby, who came to Oxford exactly 30 years ago as the Lubbock Junior Research Fellow at Balliol.

This was a sell-out, with 180 in the main lecture theatre, 150 in the overflow, and a further 40 who logged in to watch it live online (including people from Heidelburg, Toronto, Paris and the USA!)., and it was a brilliant analysis of what could be expected from each of the renewable sources and from nuclear. It turns out that a stupendous programme is needed to achieve the reductions in CO2 emissions that are calculated as necessary to meet the 2050 target of cutting the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 to at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline. In my brief thanks to Professor Mackay at the end of a vigorous quetion and answer session, I said that in the title of the lecture, he should perhaps have substituted 'with a dollop of cold water' for 'without the hot air'.

Every thinking person who's concerned about the future of the planet should read Professor Mackay's book, which is available as a free download at One who I am sure is studying it intensely is my LibDem colleague Chris Huhne, who faces an immediate challenge of meeting the Government's target to reduce central Government emissions by 10% over the next 12 months. Will they all be putting on long johns and turning down the thermostats next winter?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Unbelievable, amazing, unprecedented, fantastic, astonishing - we've all run out of adjectives to describe yesterday's events. In a letter to a friend from Chicago I tried to explain what had happened:

Politics doesn't have to be a never-ending tribal conflict. More can sometimes be achieved by dialogue and compromise between people coming from different philosophical backgrounds.

We said we would deliver strong and stable government to cope with the dire economic situation this country faces. That we have done.

We said we would usher in a new kind of politics. This is it.

We set out in our manifesto a detailed set of policies, many of which appear in the joint programme announced this afternoon. That's an amazing achievement for a party that, under our discredited electoral system, got only 57 seats.

We have got the Tories to agree to a referendum on AV, to which they had been implacably opposed in the past.

At 00.03 this morning, after hearing from Nick Clegg and our negotiating team, and debating the agreement between the Parties for 2 ½ hours, the Commons and Lords Parliamentary Parties voted unanimously in favour of the agreement, and gave the team a standing ovation.

Of course there will be some problems as Nick Clegg has acknowledged, not least in explaining the unexpected outcome to the rank and file of the Party. But I hope they will see, after analysing the facts that will be presented to them at the special Assembly in Birmingham on Sunday, that we have delivered as much as possible of what we told the people we would do at the elections. This was the only solution available that produces a Government with the combined forces needed to deal with the economic crisis, in the national interest, and at the same time putting into operation so many of our flagship LibDem policies. Our Ministers will be there in Cabinet to make sure it all happens, and nobody can say, in the light of this outcome, that a LibDem vote is a wasted vote!

We have a duty to explain this agrement in detail to LibDem members and the public. That's why Nick and the negotiating team have taken great pains to explain every step of the road to the Parliamentary Party in both Houses and the Federal Executive, culminating in the unanimous votes of approval at 00.03 this morning by the Commons and Lords in separate votes, and why there is a meeting to which all Party members are invited at Birmingham this Sunday. Nobody can deny that our processes of consultation are more democratic than those of any other Party.

The explanation must include an account of the negotiations with Labour, and why they were always destined to fail. Apart from the refusal of the Labour team to make any concessions, it became apparent from the comments of John Reid, David Blunkett et al, Gordon Brown would have found it impossible to sell any deal to his Party, and there would have been widespread public opposition to what was being described as a 'coalition of the losers'.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Decision Day?

As we know, there are offers on the table now from the Conservatives and Labour. Subject to any further amendments from today's talks between the negotiating teams, the LibDems have to make up our minds on whether to accept either offer, first on the basis of our undertaking to do what is necessary in the national interest to get a strong and stable Government, and on the extent to which the agreement satisfies the principles we had set out in our manifesto. We must obviously have regard to the likelihood that the offers made are deliverable by the leadership of the parties when put to their rank and file; the chances of getting the measures agreed through both Houses of Parliament, particularly the interim move towards electoral reform of the Alternative Vote, and the guarantee that whoever is Prime Minister wouldn't suddenly pull the plug on us by calling a snap general election.

16.00 Large bags or holdalls are being loaded into cars at the back of Downing Street and it has been announced that the talks betweeen LibDems and Labour have ended. A number of senior Labour statesmen including David Blunkett Andy Burnham and John Reid have said effectively that the Labour Government is finished.

Some Tories have been critical of the LibDems for holding the talks with Labour, but the Party would have crucified the leadership if we hadn't made serious efforts to ascertain what the possibilities were of a LibLab deal. It has become clear that even the limited offer they made would have been vetoed by their Parliamentary Party.

18.00 Peter Riddell of The Times says the best deal would be one that lasts four years, though he didn't add that fixed term Parliaments of that length should be a priority. The Tories and LibDems have now been negotiating the fine print of the deal in the Cabinet Office for something like 4 hours, and its an encouraging sign because stable government requires as few loose ends as possible. The danger will always be that something they hadn't thought of would cause a dispute of principle between the two partners. If the LibDems had to leave the coalition, the Tories would presumably continue as a minority government, and the stability needed for economic recovery would be forfeited. The LibDem Parliamentary Party is meeting at the LGA at 20.30, which means that the marathon discussions at the Cabinet Office are expected to last a bit longer.

19.00 The Labour National Executive has just finished its meeting, and made clear that they wouldn't have swallowed a deal with the LibDems. The marathon in the Cabinet Office is continuing, and rumours are coming out of some elements of the agreement. The BBC are pointing out areas of potential dispute such as Europe and immigration, and one hopes there will be a mechanism for resolving them.

19.10 Journalists in Downing Street are expecting the Prime Minister to appear, which is thought to mean he has been told the LibDem-Con deal has been sealed. So maybe Her Majesty will have to postpone her dinner, but won't have to stay up late.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A busy Monday

The LibDem peers met for nearly two hours this morning and there was a very good attendance - better than a normal Parliamentary day for which we get paid, and someone remarked - and almost everyone spoke briefly. There was a second meeting at 17.00 at which again there were comments on the situation as each of us saw it. We were invited to a third meeting with the Commons, a departure from the customary practice where the Members of Lords and Commons always meet separately, with a token presence from the other end of the building. So the final meeting of the day was in the Grand Committee Room, starting at 22.40 and continuing until shortly before 01.00. There were a few indomitable journalists and TV cameras waiting for us to emerge, and asking us to say something about what had transpired. I said 'Hello'.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


It has been an extraordinary day with the detailed talks between the LibDem and Tory negotiating teams, another one-to-one meeting between Nick Clegg and David Cameron, and a meeting between Nick and Gordon Brown. Most commentators are saying that a 'rainbow coalition' with Labour, LibDems and the minority parties, is arithmetically and politically a non-starter, so the options are narrowing. The LibDem peers are meeting tomorrow at 11.00 and presumably we will get some idea of what's been going on behind the scenes.

Lindsay at Chiswick House this afternoon. We visited it on the way back from Heathrow, where we had taken Phil to catch his flight back to Chicago. Before that Phil gave us brunch at Richoux on South Audley Street. Our last transactions there had been our wedding cake 25 years ago, and John William's christening cake.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Yesterday, to Oxford, for the annual dinner of the Maurice Lubbock Scholars at Balliol, the 53rd anniversary of the first award. Howard Davies and Malcolm Forrest, the first and second Scholars, were both there, and of course the more recent ones as well. The room we meet in, the old SCR, holds a maximum of 23, so it would be a problem if everyone turned up. Afterwards, back to Paddington on the 23.05, home at 01.00.

Today, no appointments for what seems like the first time since the election campaign started, and a chance to reflect on the outcome. After we were apparently on a plateau of 27-28% in the opinion polls, we actually got 23%, a consequence I suspect of the onslaught by the print media on us in the last week, and perhaps the classic third-party squeeze, making people think they are choosing between the two parties likely to form a government. It was still an improvement for us on the last general election, but perversely, a drop of 5 Commons seats to 57, fewer than half the 123 we would have got under fully proportional system. As the LibDem MPs met this afternoon, over 1,000 people demonstrated noisily outside demanding that Nick Clegg insist on electoral reform as a condition of any agreement with the Tories. There's a strong groundswell of opinion, not just among Liberal Democrat supporters, that we ought to go all out for electoral reform in any agreement with either Tories or Labour.

The probability must be that Cameron isn't in a position to deliver anything other than his offer of an all-party committee to look into the matter. We had already been round that loop years ago with the Jenkins Commission, whose report is gathering dust in some forgotten cupboard in Whitehall. So a coalition with the Tories seems improbable, with disagreements on other key policies including Europe, nuclear power, and immigration. Maybe there is still a chance of agreement on a more limited 'arrangement’ whereby the LibDems agree not to vote against the motion to approve the Queen's Speech and the Budget, while keeping their options open on measures introduced by the Tory Government.

If the negotiations with Cameron fail, the LibDems could still negotiate with the Labour Party, perhaps under a different leader as one senior Labour MP has already suggested. The chemistry between Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown is said to be poor, and Brown's conversion to a referendum on electoral reform was eleventh hour. He sees it as an unpalatable necessity for his survival, not an essential reform of an undemocratic system that delivers arbitrary results.

But the arithmetic is against a Lib-Lab deal. As The Guardian points out this morning, even with the ScotNats, the Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and the Green on board, there's only a bare majority of four, desperately vulnerable to casualties and by-elections, taking one back to the knife-edge days of the first Harold Wilson Government of 1964, which also started with a majority of four. Yes, it can be done, but remember that Harold went back to the country, encouraged by a by-election win at Hull, after only 16 months. This time, the other Parties would again be at the mercy of the Labour Prime Minister, whoever that may be, and s(he) would obviously pick a date for the next general election that suited them and not us. The scenario also presupposes that deals could be done with each of the minor parties, involving a protracted set of negotiations the markets can ill-afford, and possible concessions that would be seen as the tail wagging the dog.

At the end of Saturday, its too early even to guess at the likely outcome. All that can be said is that the decision to allow 19 days between pollibg day and the Queen’s Speech was sensible.The probability must be that Cameron isn't in a position to deliver anything other than his offer of an all-party committee to look into the matter. We had already been round that loop years ago with the Jenkins Commission, whose report is gathering dust in some forgotten cupboard in Whitehall. So a coalition with the Tories seems improbable, with disagreements on other key policies including Europe, nuclear power, and immigration. Maybe there is still a chance of agreement on a more limited 'arrangement’ whereby the LibDems agree not to vote against the motion to approve the Queen's Speech and the Budget, while keeping their options open on measures introduced by the Tory Government.

If the negotiations with Cameron fail, the LibDems could still negotiate with the Labour Party, perhaps under a different leader as one senior Labour MP has already suggested. The chemistry between Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown is said to be poor, and Brown's conversion to a referendum on electoral reform was eleventh hour. He sees it as an unpalatable necessity for his survival, not an essential reform of an undemocratic system that delivers arbitrary results.

The arithmetic is against a Lib-Lab deal. Even with the ScotNats, the Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and the Green on board, there's only a bare majority of four, desperately vulnerable to casualties and by-elections, taking one back to the knife-edge days of the first Harold Wilson Government of 1964, which also started with a majority of four. Yes, it can be done, but Harold went back to the country, encouraged by a by-election win at Hull, after only 16 months. This time, the other Parties would again be at the mercy of the Labour Prime Minister, whoever that may be, and s(he) would obviously pick a date for the next general election that suited them and not us. The scenario also presupposes that deals could be done with each of the minor parties, involving a protracted set of negotiations the markets can ill-afford, and possible concessions that would be seen as the tail wagging the dog.

At the end of Saturday, its too early even to guess at the likely outcome. All that can be said is that the decision to allow 19 days between pollibg day and the Queen’s Speech was sensible.