Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lib Dem AGM

Stockton Liberal Democrats held their Annual meeting at lunch time - an innovation which brought in a decent number of people. We enjoyed lunch while listening to Fiona Hall MEP talking about her work as a Member of the European Parliament. Whilst some may think that the European Parliament is a distant body Fiona pointed out several things in which she's been involved related directly to life here in the North East. Her most recent interest has been in the Northern Rock debacle, when she realised that because the bank has a branch in Eire in the Euro currency zone it could apply for a loan from the European bank. Taxpayers in the UK would not have to risk billions of pounds and there'd be no suggestion of unfair state aid. Fiona has written to the bank and to the Chancellor but had no action from either.
She also explained some of the complexities of the Economic Partnership Agreements being proposed between Europe and the African & Carribean nations. They've been very controversial but I confess to not having fully understood them. Fiona explained that for the very poorest nations the protection which is built in makes them helpful but for the less poor nations they do have problems and the countries concerned are understandably concerned. As a result they're refusing to sign at present. Fiona did say that people from Eaglescliffe and Yarm had been very active in lobbying her about the undesirable effects of the EPAs, so well done those people. You are making sure that our MEP thinks carefully about the issues.
All AGMs have a business section of course, electing officers and receiving reports, but we were fortunate to have a second speaker - our president, Jeremy Atkinson. Some Eaglescliffe residents will remember Jeremy as a councillor before I was elected. He was a hard act to follow as the saying goes. He delivered a thought provoking talk on modern life and how we behave towards the disadvantaged in our society, including refugees. I can't possibly say it as well as he so I reproduce the relevant part below:

I see the British economy today as a cruise ship.

A lot of us are able to enjoy the luxury of cruising – which is good news.

Some of those with us have borrowed the fare, which they can’t really afford, and others, who could easily afford the fare, hold their bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, and decide not to pay anyway. This is bad news.

Also, many disadvantaged are left behind, refugees among them.

They haven’t got the training, or are not allowed legally to join the crew, or they are still in the backs of container lorries, even in unseaworthy boats, trying to catch up.

Because of climate change there are a lot more icebergs about, and potentially a lot more refugees.

It seems to me that the Tories are happy to enjoy the cruise, but are inclined to niggle about the bar prices and the safety drills.

They don’t like intrusive government but are happy enough to welcome the life boat when the ship is holed by a northern rock

Labour know something is wrong, but can’t think what to do about it, except put the ship’s maintenance and communications out to tender and order the crew to use less fuel, and certainly never to waste money on registered post.

While I was enjoying thought provoking speakers my hard-working husband was busy at home putting on wall-paper - there really isn't any justice is there. He did stop in time to go to Billingham and use the concert tickets which were a birthday present.

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