Kingston Green Fair & Galloway speech

It’s 10 days to go until the election insha Allah, and today I went to two separate Respect engagements - a stall they were running in Kingston Green Fair which was here in Kingston down by the river, and a speech in an Indian restaurant in Hounslow by George Galloway in the evening. I hadn’t heard of the Green Fair until a couple of weeks ago - it has an environmental theme and features a lot of exotic stalls selling food and clothes, and various political stalls from groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. It also brought out the hippies, Rastas and even Hare Krishnas. We had a stall which was in one of the less well-frequented corners of the fairground although I did manage to shift quite a few of their leaflets. The Galloway meeting was in a small Indian restaurant in Hounslow near Hounslow East tube station. I was surprised that it was in the main restaurant which is basically house width … it’s just one shop unit. I was expecting a hall. Galloway gave his usual salaams (he’s not Muslim, by the way!), and gave a speech in which he alleged that the European Parliament was not that important, but that the election was, as it is our opportunity to give Bliar a slap in the face, which may well lead to him falling from the leadership of the Labour Party. He talked about the “pager” system in the Labour party in which the MPs and Euro MPs have pagers through which the party tells them what to say if asked about any issue by a journalist. He also said that he keeps a 5 pound note in his pocket to give to anyone who can name three Labour Euro MPs, and that he has not managed to shift it yet because no-one can name any - because they are all stooges, he says. He said that the Muslim vote is very important in getting Respect candidates elected, but that not all the people who oppose the war are Muslims, but that they are stronger for the Muslims’ presence.

The food was pretty good Indian fare - pakoras (bhajis) for starters, and a buffet main course with salad, rice, chickpeas and a lamb curry. I have to say that as a Muslim I am uncomfortable with sharing a platform with some of the “socialist” elements in Respect - often they cannot resist bringing out their Socialist Worker papers and pamphlets. I’m also not too happy about some of the domestic policies of Respect, like the stupid idea of extending the London congestion charge out to Kensington and Chelsea and the outlying residential areas of the City of Westminster. The fact that these are “wealthy” areas is beside the point (and what about the wealthy Arabs who live round there, some of whom you might like to canvass for support?). As Muslims we are not supposed to envy or resent people’s wealth. We do not support policies to “clobber the rich bastards in Kensington” as (a) not everyone in Kensington is rich and (b) not all of the rich are bastards (even in Kensington).

The congestion charge sort-of works now because it has a definable boundary: the ring road. Most of the premises inside the ring road, especially towards the west, are business. Outer Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea are mostly residential and it makes no sense to charge people to drive to their own homes (rather than drive to work, which is what the C-charge is supposed to target). The zone would, in addition, cut across the main route from south to north London: the western part of the ring road, which is the current congestion charge boundary. Extending the charge west would mean all the traffic having to go through Earl’s Court, up to the big junction near Shepherds’ Bush, then either back in towards Marylebone, or through Harlesden to the North Circular, or out to the Hanger Lane gyratory system. It’s a stupid idea. While I’ll vote for them to make the anti-war point, I’m not convinced by the rest of their programme.

And by the way … here’s another article on the impending re-introduction of the draft in the USA. Even Kerry may have to follow this policy, which is why it’s very hush-hush even though there are bills in Committee stage now. (Wonder if Ralph Nader will pick up on this?)

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