As I've mentioned already, I stayed in Westminster on Friday for Private Members Bill debates, but headed off to Bristol late-ish Friday evening, for two events on Saturday.
The first was great - a rally organised by the Bristol Zimbabwe Association, which included a march around Colston Parade, lots of singing and dancing (though not by me) and some very cute kids. The event was organised by Forward Maisokwadzo, chair of the BZA, (what a great name for a campaigner - Forward with Forward!). I was particularly pleased to see a couple of constituents who I'd met at a recent surgery; they'd fled Zimbabwe because of their involvement with the opposition MDC and told me they'd just got leave to remain, which was great news.
Next on the itinerary was a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign conference, at which I was a speaker, along with Ilan Pappe, a Jewish (but pro-Palestinian) academic. Profoundly depressing. Life is too short to re-run all the arguments here, but basically most of the audience seemed to be saying that the only solution to the Israel-Palestine problem is to overthrow international capitalism and defeat global imperialism. Which of course is obvious, and we should have thought of it before, and now that we know we can start the ball rolling immediately and sort everything out in a matter of months, if not weeks. Plus lots of predictable Government bashing and a wilful refusal to acknowledge that any Labour MPs might actually agree with them. Just to give one example - after the two speeches, and a whole series of questions, one member of the audience demanded to know, quite aggressively, whether we supported a Palestinian state, and if not, why not? He'd obviously not been listening to a word either of us had said (I'd been talking about a two state solution, the road map, 1967 borders, the illegality of the Israeli wall and settlements) or, more probably, was determined to see us as 'the enemy' and didn't want to hear anything which might have confounded his expectations. I tried suggesting that it might be better if we discussed ways forward, that it might be worth trying to work with sympathetic politicians rather than waiting for the revolution, but was just met with more heckling.
The best bit though (and I don't mean best at all, of course) was when I was taken to task for having supported the anti-Mugabe Zimbabwe rally earlier. Apparently what is happening in Zimbabwe is all down to British imperialism and we are denying African people their democratic right to be governed by the leader of their choice, i.e. Mugabe. I kid you not. (This was on the very day when it was announced that Mugabe's attempts to rig the election recount had failed).
The same guy had also been handing out pro-Mugabe leaflets at the Zimbabwe rally. I was with my constituents at the time, the ones who'd fled Mugabe's regime and had just had their asylum claim accepted. And they were being told by a white middle-class CPGB member that he was fighting British imperialism on behalf of the Zimbabwean people.... Words fail me.
All in a day's work of course. And then my car broke down on the motorway and after a long saga involving three different AA vehicles, an AA relay driver who insisted he had to take a 45 minute break (yes, I know, I support the working time directive, but not at that precise moment), and lots of time spent sitting on the hard shoulder and at two different service stations, I eventually arrived at my friend's 40th birthday party in St Albans gone midnight, only to find that what was supposed to be a salsa/Latin/ swing evening had been hijacked by someone called DJ Brian who was playing Lionel Ritchie's "Dancing on the Ceiling". He then played Bryan Adams. The day could, however, have been worse. At least I missed Shania Twain.