Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Arrest Gaddafi, put him on trial and support a peaceful revolution in Libya

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Blair and Gaddafi in March 2004
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it; always.” So said Mahatma Gandhi. And it is indeed true. It may take years, decades and even centuries but eventually all dictators fail.
As Colonel Gaddafi rails in his own distinct inimitable way, the tyrant should see that his time has come to go. If the armed forces continue to rebel and side with the protesters then Tripoli will fall quickly. However, given the wealth of the bribes and the genuine support that Gaddafi enjoys amongst his tribes this may spill much blood as Libya rages through a new civil war.

His defiance will bring only further bloodshed and I hope that military commanders can overwhelm his lair to arrest him and end the fighting. At least 230 people are dead and possibly over 500 (depending upon the different chaotic reports coming out of Libya). Firing upon protesters with live bullets and dropping bombs from aircraft is utterly abhorrent and is never acceptable. When the truth finally emerges from the wreckage of Benghazi and other Eastern cities of Libya there will no doubt be many horror stories of the atrocities committed.
Benghazi, Libya
As a terror state that claimed to have disavowed terror tactics and support for terrorist groups the indecent haste in which Blair and others raced to embrace Gaddafi did not sit easily for most people. Paying the blood money of a reputed $1.5bn compensation to victims and families of the Lockerbie bombing from 1988, the Berlin disco bombing from 1986 and the bombing of the UTA airliner was some meagre demonstration of goodwill. But for the victims and their families this was too little and too late. Ultimately someone should have taken full responsibility for these crimes and yet Gaddafi was welcomed at the top table of diplomatic circles with his reputation merely enhanced.
[ image: Sister and son of Laurence Penon, a stewardess killed in the bombing, at the opening of the trial]
Sister and son of Laurence Penon, a stewardess killed in the UTA bombing,
When a pariah state comes in from the cold that should be welcomed but those responsible must be tried for their crimes. There was strong evidence that Gaddafi authorised the frequent uses of terror on his own population and against foreign enemies (mainly civilians). Therefore, every reasonable effort (short of the policy of war) should be made to bring dictators to trial. Turning a blind eye to atrocities hardly demonstrates to the wider world that crime doesn’t pay.
One year after invading Iraq and finding no Weapons of Mass Destruction, Blair saw the prospect of trying to heal the self-inflicted wounds upon his own legacy. He brushed aside the spectacle of the British Prime Minister shaking the hand of a tyrant. No doubt, in a slightly different quirk of fate Blair would have shook the hand of Saddam Hussein and called it “extraordinary”.
No, it is always right and proper to have a dialogue and to try every possible diplomatic means to bring about peaceful change so that the democratic will of the people can select their own leader but there should not be a tolerance for state terrorism that allows those dictators to walk away scott free from taking responsibility for their crimes. That doesn’t mean invading countries and imposing democracy but it does mean upholding international law and working through the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to bring justice. Using proportionate force to bring individuals before a court is acceptable if there is no other option.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
May the North African and Middle East peaceful revolutions continue and may the dictators and autocratic rulers be swept away to be replaced by democratically elected leaders.
The sooner this Libyan tyrant fails the better.

Middle East unrest

CountryUnrest Index*CorruptionPovertyAge**Literacy
Saudi Arabia

Time to end animal testing on household products

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It was a good day for animal welfare and ethical consumerism when the Coalition Government agreed to end the use of animal testing on household products on 20th May 2010 thanks to the BUAV.
As the Director of Policy for the BUAV three years ago, I had worked hard with the Chief Executive Michelle Thew to develop a concerted campaign in March 2008 to put pressure on the then Labour Government to end the frankly barbaric testing of chemicals on household products. There was no excuse for continuing a discredited policy, given the huge array of proven chemicals that are safe and have all the scientific data to demonstrate that they can be used as ingredients for products for cleaning around the house. Yet for decades successive governments had continued to allow further meaningless tests which did nothing to further science or consumer safety.
Michelle Thew has been a doughty and highly successful campaigner for animal rights for many years and deserves real credit for making sure Governments both in the UK and around the globe do not forget their responsibilities to animals. It is too easy for politicians to find excuses for either allowing abuses or failing to implement improvements to animal welfare when people worry about jobs, hospitals and schools.
Watch out for the Leaping Bunny on household and other products which means that the ingredients have undergone rigorous screening to ensure it meets the BUAV internationally recognised standard - Humane Household Products Standard (HHPS).
Shopping is made easier with the BUAV's Little Book of Cruelty Free, which can be downloaded for free from the BUAV and lists out ethical shops with websites and telephone numbers.
We pass the test on animal testing
Marks and Spencer don't sell products tested on animals and are endorsed by the BUAV
Yet we still patiently wait for the Coalition Government to honour its commitment. Given the worrying dilution of animal welfare measures by this Government one hopes that the ban on household product testing on animals will be passed soon. The Government has delayed a ban on hen beak mutilations, halted prosecutions for abuses in abattoirs and has stalled on introducing a ban of wild animals in circuses.
I recall meeting George Osborne when the Conservatives were campaigning in the Crewe and Nantwich byelection in May 2008 and myself and BUAV Policy Team were out in the constituency raising awareness of the need to end animal testing on household products. George was very amiable and friendly and even posed for a photograph. The ethical ban has no impact on the budget deficit and would be an easy win for the Coalition. I remember him reading our leaflet and saying, "Yes this is something the Conservatives can support."
So the pressure must be maintained on this Government to ensure that animal welfare does not slip off the agenda and the dark days of animal abuses go unpunished. The question on animal testing is when will this modest ban on household products be finally introduced?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

UK Unemployment set to rise

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These are graphs showing the working age employment rate and the unemployment rate
After the dramatic rise in unemployment in 2008, the rate has stabilised at around 8% over the past 18 months, but with the expectation that the savage public sector cuts will mean at least 330,000 jobs lost, we are currently in the lull before the storm.
Harsher job cuts to come in 2011, warns CIPD
Harsher job cuts to come in 2011, warns CIPD Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty
Unemployment is currently around 2,500,000 and the jobless claimant count (claiming out of work benefits) at 1,490,000. The CIPD forecast a rise to 2,700,000 unemployed in 2011. The British Chambers of Commerce concurs with this figure at 2,650,000 by the first half of 2012. Either way the official jobless count is expected to start climbing again.
It is too easy for those in work to fail to understand what it is like not to have a job. The multiple, spiralling debts and financial problems with the fear of what will arrive by post or by email. The constant anxiety of how the rent or mortgage will be paid. The fear at the supermarket checkout that there will not be enough in the bank to feed the family. The loss of self-esteem and what you say to friends and family. The nauseating rejection time and time again after completing scores of job applications (each one taking several hours).
Therefore, it is galling to read that some Barclays bankers will 'only' receive £2.7bn of bonuses with the new Chief Executive Bob Diamond receiving over £8m in bonuses. Likewise, George Osborne has said he can't restrict bank bonuses at RBS this year after RBS gave out £1.3bn last year (up from £1bn in 2009).
George Osborne
George Osborne MP, Chancellor
Some bank employees earn a relatively small income but the greed within the banks has not gone away. It is merely being screened from prying eyes. 
For the rest of us mere mortals, 2011 is going to be a very tough year with rising fuel prices (in 2007 we were paying just 95p per litre for petrol against 129p per litre for unleaded now), rapidly increasing food prices and the threat of job losses.