Monday, 19 November 2007

The UK gets ready for CHOGM

I've just been to a meeting with Mark Malloch Brown, to discuss the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which will take place in Kampala this week. The Prime Minister is attending, along with David Miliband, Douglas Alexander, Shriti Vadera and Lord Malloch Brown himself in his role as Minister for Africa.

I asked him questions about progress on the peace talks in Uganda, and about Somaliland. (I hadn't realised that Vincent Otti, deputy leader of the Lord's Resistance Army is rumoured to have been killed by Joseph Kony, the LRA leader. Otti was renowned for calling local radio phone-ins from his hideout in the bush, which I thought quite bizarre, but it's the main form of communication in a country like Uganda, where literacy rates outside the capital are very low and few people read newspapers or own televisions).

Other asked Lord Malloch Brown questions about Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. I have to say, I thought he was very impressive; he's had a bit of a hard time in the press recently, as have some of the other Ministers brought in from outside to serve in the Brown government (the so-called GOATs, as in Government of all the Talents). But he clearly has a huge breadth of knowledge, gained from years of working at the UN. I think he's a real asset.


Steven said...

I was channel hopping one evening and saw an interview with Lord Malloch-Brown on BBC News 24. My starting point is to commend Gordon Brown for bringing in non-politicians into government... time for normal people who don't live and breathe tribal politics to have a go! Anyway, I have read in the media the comments on Lord Malloch-Brown's faux-pas and was interested to hear his response. He was vey articulate, proved to me it's all media meddling, and that he's a decent chap who could make an impact in reducing poverty in Africa. After all western government's for too long have ignored Africa and it is a disgraceful scar in today's economic and social prosperity in the West. Good luck Lord MB in your role as a GOAT!

Jez said...

I don't know Lord Malloch-Brown but I think it is totally the right thing to do to bring fresh people like him into the government. However, I really think the media have it in for all of these people as they are clearly not politicians, yet they are trying to trip them up and expose these shortcomings as making them unsuitable for the job.

Gary said...

Excuse me if I'm missing the point here but why are we concentrating our efforts on Africa? First and foremost should you not be concentrating your efforts on solving the problems in your own constituency??

Kerry said...

I'm certainly not going to apologise for being interested in in Africa, and what we should be doing as a Government in terms of overseas aid, encouraging trade, conflict resolution, etc.. I'm immensely proud of the fact that Labour has doubled aid to Africa. And I am PPS to the Sec of State for International Development, so it would be a bit bizarre of me not to take an interest!
However, if you look at the news section of my website, you'll see a whole lot of things I've been doing in the constituency, from visits, surgeries, speaking engagements - and that's not to mention all the casework. Even most of what I do in Westminster is related to constituency interests - e.g.lobbying for more drugs funding, raising the issue of prostitution, campaigning on child poverty, to name just a few things I've been doing recently.
I would like to think (and this is certainly borne out by my postbag) that many of my constituents will be interested in seeing what can be achieved at CHOGM, e.g. climate change will be very much on the agenda, and I've had 500 plus people write to me on that issue alone. And how many of my constituents are of African origin themselves? Aren't I representing Somali constituents if I raise with the Minister for Africa what is happening in Somaliland, where many of their friends and family still live?
To conclude, I just don't think all my constituents are as narrow-minded and parochial as the Lib Dems seem to think we should be!