Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Australian Parliament 8 March 2005 - covering my support for the Iraqi Trade Union Movement

 Alexander Downer as Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister in Australia made the following reply to a parliamentry question on 8 March 2005. The UK parliament packed in a shortly afterwards for electoral ppurposes on 11 April 2005 and I then stood down as an MP.

Dr WASHER (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of progress being made to establish a transitional government in Iraq? Are there any alternative policies.

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs)       ALEXANDER DOWNER, Geo-Blogger at Global Brief Magazine  Let me thank the honourable member for Moore for his question and his interest. The process now is that the transitional assembly is to meet and a transitional government is to be formed by that transitional assembly. Interim Deputy Prime Minister Salih said the Transitional National Assembly would meet on 16 March. The reason 16 March was chosen is that it is the anniversary of the chemical weapons attack against Halabja by Saddam Hussein. So it is a very symbolic day. It is a very important day for the Iraqis and it is a symbol of reconciliation in that country. A two-thirds majority will be required in the National Assembly to elect a president and two vice presidents, who will in turn appoint a prime minister. That process is, of course, under way already and it is very encouraging to see this democracy at work.

What is also encouraging is that there is now international consensus. President Bush’s visit to Europe illustrated that point only too clearly. The international community is getting right behind the Iraqis in trying to ensure that the new democratic Iraq works. I was quite interested to see that amongst those who were virulently opposed to the original overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a British Labour MP called Harry Barnes. Some members opposite may know Harry Barnes. Having been a very passionate anti-war MP, he has now done the honourable thing. He has set up a group called Labour Friends of Iraq. I would like to feel that our own Labor Party could think about Labor friends of Iraq as well, and take a leaf out of Harry Barnes’s book. Harry Barnes said:

I thought it was right to oppose the war. But history moves on and the Iraqi people now have a golden opportunity to take back their country and build a decent non-sectarian democracy ...

Here you have the British Labour Party, even the anti-war dissidents within the government majority there, getting behind the people of Iraq. Just about the only people left who are continually harping on in a negative way about Iraq are the Australian Labor Party led by the current Leader of the Opposition. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition made an 18-minute speech. It was another simple illustration of his capacity to walk both sides of the street. It was a speech where he said nothing positive about the Iraqi election. I think the only thing he said about the election was that he thought it was flawed.

The European Union, the NATO leaders and the international community all know that the Sunnis were intimidated in order to keep the turnout low, but we are being positive and constructive about the future of democracy in Iraq. The Leader of the Opposition apparently thinks that the real issue here is that the country is about to descend into a civil war. So let’s talk up that issue. He walks both sides of the street. He said, in terms of Australia’s contribution, that he thinks the maintenance of a strong position in the Persian Gulf is not an unreasonable thing on a more long-term basis. So we should have people—the Navy, I suppose—in the Persian Gulf in the long term.

But the Leader of the Opposition also said in the same speech that we should not commit ourselves permanently outside of the Asia-Pacific region. We should have the Navy there but we should not have the Army there! We should be there; we should not be there! He had a new criticism which was that when the al-Sadr forces were in revolt there was a need to increase our deployment in Iraq. But with Iraq so much quieter now he thinks that we should have increased our troop numbers earlier. And maybe having increased them earlier we should reduce them. He makes the argument that we do not have enough troops there—450 is not enough! We need more troops there but we should not have troops there at all! I think the Labor Party in Australia should follow the lead of Harry Barnes. They should get behind the Iraqi people, set up a new group called ‘Labor friends for Iraq’—not ‘Gough Whitlam in Blues Point Tower friends for Iraq’—and get behind the Iraqi people and support democracy. On this side of the House that is what we do.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

How well did Labour perform ?

 Although one result in England is still awaited, the local election results are much more pro-labour than most commentators claim. When added together they show that Labour took easily more votes than most other political parties, groupings and independents. Easily outmatching many contestants.

These are the total percentages -

Labour                 44.9%

Conservatives      20.2%

Liberals                12.8%

Independents         9.4%                   The Labour percentage is equal to the total for all other

SNP                       6.7%                   groups, excluding only those for the Independents and the

Plaid Cymru          3.0%                   Residents Association,

Greens                   2.2%

Residents Ass.       0.8% 

There are , however, some qualifications which need to be made to these results. 

First of all, the seats contested were not even roughly of equal sizes. Those in rural areas tending to have more seats per head of their electorates. Whilst the areas which had no contests may have differing political commitments to those which were contested. But for Labour to equal the turnout of so many political groupings is surely a matter of some significance.



Saturday, April 30, 2022

Ban Mobiles and the like for MPs when in the Commons.


Neil Parish is resigning as an MP after being discovered to have viewed pornography on a mobile devise in the Commons Chamber.

Yet all uses of such technology needs to be banned in such circumstances. For MPs are supposed to be there to follow and potentially participate in debates and to pursue procedural avenues.

 If an MP on the floor of the Commons needs to be contacted urgently, then Commons Officials can always contact them in the Chamber and the MPs concerned can leave and then use a phone or a mobile. They are supposed to be present to listen to debates and follow procedural developments.

Mobiles and the like often kill off such possibiities, with MPs following non-relevant issues.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Blunders of Boris

Boris Johnson appeared with medical experts time after time on television explaining what the rules for avoiding Covid were - at different times and replying in detail to questions. He must have said many things that were inconsistent with the matters he has now been found quilty over. I have searched for these interviews on the internet, but have so far been unsuccessful. But surely the Parliamentary Labour Party can come up with these. They need re-showing on TV and will further his departure as Prime Minister or lead to his massive unpopularity.

22 April - At last I have found this key source which spells out the failures of Boris. How and when he spelt out the rules to the pubic, then broke them on specific occasions in 10 Downing Street - . On top of which there is also this matter -


Friday, March 25, 2022

Key Material on Easington Colliery by Mary N Bell

See -

Also these 10 poems by Easington women concerning the local pit. Including four by Mary N Bell.

There is also her book of poems (including the above)"Where the Pits Were". See -

And there is her book "A Cronicle of Easington Colliery" which contains a Foreword from myself . See -

Sunday, February 13, 2022

333 Year's Ago Today

The Bill of Rights of 1689 (which significantly established the Rights of Parliament and placed limits on the Crown) became law exactly 333 years ago today.  Some of it appears below.

This is how it is described on the Parliamentary web site - "The Bill of Rights 1689 is an iron gall ink manuscript on parchment. It is an original Act of the English Parliament and has been in the custody of Parliament since its creation. The Bill firmly established the principles of frequent parliaments, free elections and freedom of speech within Parliament – known today as Parliamentary Privilege. It also includes no right of taxation without Parliament's agreement, freedom from government interference, the right of petition and just treatment of people by courts. The main principles of the Bill of Rights are still in force today - particularly being cited in legal cases – and was used as a model for the US Bill of Rights 1789. Its influence can also be seen in other documents establishing the rights of humans, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights." FROM

It is a pity that we have to celebrate this anniversary under Boris.

 English Bill of Rights of 1689.jpg





Thursday, February 03, 2022

The Shadow Of Easington's Pit.

The Shadow of the Mine by Ray Hudson and Huw Beynon

The Shadow of the Mine by Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson tells the story of the British Coal Industry in its development and heyday, plus what then happened to mining communities when the last pits were closed under the impact of Thatcherism. Whilst the book covers the general pattern of major events across the country, it pays particular attention to developments in the key mining areas of South Wales and County Durham. Their coal in the past having been especially important to the British Economy in powering its factories and railways.

  As I originate from Easington Colliery which was the last pit to close in the Durham Coalfield, I found this work to be of particular interest. Especially as Easington's pit and community are refered to more than any others. It makes six of the book's photos, maps and tables. Then its pit is also refered to more than any others - according to the index 19 times.  The neigbouring Horden Colliery coming next, with references on 9 pages. Yet out of the 67 such mines referred to, 29 only reeeive a single mention.

   When account is also taken of Easington as a community, it is mentioned on no less than 30 pages. Then it is additionally covered via references to Easington in its wider capacity as a District Council area and eventually as a Parliamentary Constituency. Below I give what I see as the main reasons why Easington itself was likely to be given so much attention by Beynon and Hudson.

   (1) Easington Colliery's slow creation and eventual growth rested fully on coal mining. For before coal mining back in the 1891 Census what is now its current area was then populated by only 61 people. These included farmers, a single agricultural labourer, brickyard workers, coast guards, quarrymen, children and housewives. And even some of these then travelled in to work from what became known as nearbye Easington Village. It was to be the pit alone that created a full Easington Colliery community; essentially for its workers, their families and those who provided them with services. Only as time went on did limited numbers of the miners children and wives find work nearbye in places such as Sunderland, Hartlepool and finally the later establised Peterlee.

   (2)  The Easington Colliery Pit Disaster of 1951 (according to the official report) "arose from an explosion in a specific seam when a coal cutting machine operating on a retreating longwall face struck pyrites. The explosion spread through 16,000 yards and caused the deaths of 81 persons. Two persons died in the ensuing rescue operations." My own father was in the pit at the time, but was working in a different seam from the explosion. He later helped with salvage work.

  (3)  During the miners strike of 1984-85 the depth of the struggle at Easington Colliery gained a great deal of attention, including mass turn outs against a single miner who sort to return to work. Local activists and their supporters were also often highly articulate about what was takng place.

  (4)  Easington was the final pit to be closed in County Durham, so it marked the end of a massively significant era.

  (5) Easington later attracted attention when the popular fictional film "Billy Elliot" was made there in 2002, involving locals in the background.

  Readers of Benyon and Hudson's book who have Easington connections may be find it odd to have its authors calling it "Easington Colliery village." For Easington Village which is next to Easington Colliery has a much longer non-mining history than the Colliery. Although it eventually came to have a Council Housing Estate which accomodated numbers of local miners and their families, plus retirement homes for ex-miners. But the authors are merely following a pattern where communites dominated by coal mining are often termed by them as being "mining villages".

  Many people with connections to Easington will also find this books wider coverage of "Coal And The End Of Industrial Britain" to be of interest.  For it deals with many similar backgrounds and events which first developed and then uncoupled key aspects of a wide range of coal mining communities.