Saturday, 17 October 2009

Funny peace of thinking!

THIS was the week that the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced. It’s awarded to the person who’s made the world’s biggest contribution to peace and human rights over the past year. Previous winners include Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Sometimes it goes to organisations like Amnesty International and the Red Cross. So it’s a big deal. If you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, you’d certainly be swinging it around in everyone’s face in the pub that evening. But surprisingly, this year’s winner was US President Barack Obama. Now, I’m a big fan of Mr O –– he’s certainly a trillion times better than his dopey predecessor George Bush. But has Obama really done enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year at the White House? Even the man himself said he doesn’t really deserve it!The Nobel Committee said they gave it to Obama to encourage him in his quest for peace. But I’m not sure that’s right. It’s like giving a drama student an Oscar to encourage them in their acting career. The decision is even more dubious when you look at the other nominees. People like Morgan Tsvangarai (Zimbabwe’s democracy leader), Sima Samar (who does women’s rights in Afghanistan) and Denis Mukwege (who helps victims of conflict in the Congo) have literally risked their lives every day for years on end –– just to help others. Obama will do things that deserve a Nobel Peace Prize –– but he hasn’t done them yet.
ON Wednesday, the Prime Minister committed yet more troops to Afghanistan. In my view, and this paper’s view, that’s the wrong policy. But he also commemorated the 37 soldiers killed over the summer. So it was fitting that last Tuesday we had a reception for military service people in the swanky apartment where the Speaker of the House lives—a posh flat with champagne and a fourposter bed. I can report that I met some of the finest military personnel I’ve ever come across in my 24 years in politics. Heading the hall of fame were Leading Medical Assistant Paul Davies, and his colleague Gareth, plus Lieutenant Sharon Fraser Smith from the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service. These people are skilled, committed and brave. They literally save lives — putting people back together after they’ve been injured in the fierce fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. What I didn’t realise is they also care for wounded enemy fighters too — or, as they call them “detainees”. I asked smartly uniformed and charming Sharon — who, I must admit, was rather on the fit side — if she was ever scared out there. “Yes, sometimes, but you just have to put it aside,” she said. “My team depends on me so I can’t let myself feel scared.” Once, while watching telly, the insurgents started mortar bombing them. Her response was to turn up the TV volume! I was proud to meet Sharon, Paul and Gareth. They’re a credit to our military and our country. Oh, and I hope you got back to Plymouth OK – and that they sell aspirin on the train.
WELL, everyone’s back in Parliament again. And the week started with a classic example of all that’s stupidest in parliamentary policy making. Basically, Ministers hate smoking so much they’ve decided they won’t let newsagents even display cigarettes on the back wall of their shops. It will be law to hide fags under the counter. Well, how’s this going to help anybody? The evidence suggests to me it’ll do almost nothing to stop adults or kids from smoking.Do ministers imagine kids see all the nice packets on the back wall and say to the shopkeeper: “Oooh, I’ve decided to become addicted to fags. Twenty B&H please, mister.” It’s rubbish. It’ll cost shopkeepers loads of money and turn buying cigs into some sort of weirdly embarrassing activity like buying porn and condoms. I voted against it but I voted in vain. There’s still a chance the new rules won’t get put into action. But for now, it looks like common sense has gone up in smoke.
THERE was a stir in Cornwall this week when anti-student graffiti appeared. Apparently, it was scrawled by a group called the Cornish Republican Army who want Cornwall to be independent from England and don’t like new flats being given to students, instead of local folk. No one knows if the Cornish Republican Army — or CRA — has any real support, or even exists! Some claim CRA members get training and funds from other terrorist groups, others reckon it’s just a clever hoax and their boss might as well be the Loch Ness monster. I’m not keen on Cornish independence — it would make scrumpy cider a foreign beverage. And it would mean Sport stunna Marlena Lewis from Cornwall would need a passport to get her Cornish pasties into this paper!

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