And what a week! There’s been so much happening at Westminster over the last few weeks that it’s been hard to find time to get down to the blog, before there are new developments! A couple of weeks ago we had some late night debates on the finance bill – and this week obviously the big domestic news has been the News of the World scandal – there’s clearly going to be much more to come – Ed Miliband has shown real leadership on the issue and I think he has shown that he recognises the public concerns on the whole issue – not just the phone hacking, but also the whole question of media ownership and the way the government has been handling the proposed BSkyB takeover.
But that’s not been the only issue out there. The big international news has to be the drought and return of famine in East Africa. 10 million people are already at risk, and millions of more may be over the next few months. In my role as a Shadow Minister for International Development, I’ve been involved this week in a number of meetings with international development NGOs, including Islamic Relief, CAFOD and the African Development Forum, and this has been a major theme. I also spoke for Labour at a Commons committee meeting to approve more UK funding for the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank – the extra funds for the former being a grant for Haiti to help pay for the ongoing reconstruction after the earthquake in that country.
The earthquake in Haiti could not have been prevented. Nor of couhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrse, could the drought in East Africa. But there have been plenty of warnings about the likelihood of famine, and there is no doubt that much more could have been done to limit the effects of the drought – the world community has failed here, and without proper reforms and action, this crisis will undoubtedly recur again. At least the UK public has responded to the emergency appeal, and we are looking at radical ways of improving our response to humanitarian and emergency crises.
Another area where the world needs to do more, but where there have also been successes, is in tackling the challenge of HIV and AIDS. This is an issue affecting both developing countries, and our community here in Scotland. I’m taking part in an event in Edinburgh later today organised by Waverley Care on that very theme – I’ll be putting my full speech up on the web in a day or so. (Another link between our community and the wider world has been the CORE group in North Edinburgh – and I was at their event a couple of weeks ago to bid farewell to their Director Tesfu Gefesse who is off to run an international project for Save the Children in Ethiopia.
A different type of challenge, but an ongoing one at home, is thhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gife shortage of affordable housing in our communities, and I’ve joined with my local Labour colleagues Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Leith councillor Gordon Munro in backing a bid by Port of Leith Housing Association for two housing projects in Leith.
Along with that, I’ve still been getting the regular turn-out at MP surgeries – not surprisingly, there’s been a steady increase in people coming along with various problems associated with benefits and unemployment. I’ve also, of course, been out on the streets supporting Labour’s campaign to win the crucial by-election for the City Centre ward on Edinburgh City Council.
Finally, a word to those sending me emails in support of various campaigns – I seem to be getting hundreds each week at the moment. I do read them all, and will reply to them all – but if my replies are relatively brief, I hope you will understand!