TONY BLAIR can chalk up one achievement for his first ten years in office—a resurgence of political debate and activity sparked by anger with his policies.
People in Britain have some 14.5 million political conversations every day, according to new research.
Over half the population, 57 percent, say they have an average of one political conversation a day. The study was conducted for the Electoral Commission in the run-up to the European elections on 10 June. It found that 25 percent of those political conversations are held at work.
Another popular place to put the world to rights is the pub. And the number of people who are prepared to do something about their political beliefs is also on the up.
The government’s latest “Home Office Citizen Survey” paints a picture of growing involvement in protest movements.
Between 2001 and 2003 the number of politically engaged people who chose to turn out for a demonstration went up by over 13 percent.
And some 60 percent signed a petition, which was up by 17 percent from 2001. The figures also show that people are not looking to “official” channels to express their discontent.
The number of people contacting politicians in the hope of having their problems dealt with has fallen slightly over the last few years.
MoD ignored vaccine fears
THE MINISTRY of Defence were told that they risked making British troops ill by injecting them with a cocktail of vaccines in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War.
New Labour, like the Tories, is reluctant to allow an inquiry into Gulf War syndrome, the mystery illness afflicting around 6,000 British soldiers who fought in the war.
More than 630 of the 53,000 who served have died. Now an independent inquiry, set up by donations, has heard evidence that the government knew of the dangers.
Flight Lieutenant John Nichol told the inquiry of “an apparently unheeded fax from the Department of Health to the Ministry of Defence” in December 1990 warning of the effects of the drug cocktail on animals in trials.
Noel Baker now suffers from multiple sclerosis. He told the inquiry he was ordered to take anthrax and plague vaccines, even though he was ill after earlier injections.
Larry Cammock woke up to find he was being injected by an army orderly, who, when asked what was in the cocktail of drugs, replied, “You don’t want to know, mate.”
Cammock now suffers from 20 medical conditions including osteoporosis, insomnia and arthritis.
Bush’s test tubes
THE GANG that run the White House has a new target—scientific research.
The US-based Union of Concerned Scientists has accused the Bush administration of disregard, distortion and censorship of science.
Richard Myers, a leading genetic scientist, was denied a post at the National Institute of Health. He says, “The recruitment officer asked questions that shocked me. She wanted to know what I thought about President Bush. Did I like him?”
Robert Paine was told to ignore scientific evidence that showed that wild salmon were endangered.The World Health Organisation has been told the White House will clear government-funded scientists before they address conferences.
SCIENTISTS investigating radiation leaking from nuclear power stations have found that the risk of cancer may be ten times higher than previously thought.
The findings concern people living near the Sellafield nuclear power station. This is Britain’s biggest source of deadly plutonium, which lingers in the environment for centuries and can cause cancer.
In this week - 95 years ago - 1909
THE START of “la Semena Tragica” (the Tragic Week) in Barcelona, Spain.
Trade unions declared a general strike against a call-up to fight a colonial war in Morocco.
The revolt was triggered by the grievances of Spanish workers and opposition to imperialism.
Workers took control of much of the city, erecting barricades and stopping troop trains. The revolt spread to other cities.
Government repression left 150 workers dead.
US does torture Iraqi children
US FORCES in Iraq are torturing children, according to a report on German television.
Sergeant Samuel Provance spoke of one 16 year old prisoner held at Abu Ghraib jail: “He was very afraid, very alone. The interrogation specialists threw cold water over him and drove him around. They covered him with mud and showed him to his father. His father started crying.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that children are in Iraqi jails.
Contempt for tragic village
RESIDENTS OF Aberfan in South Wales are outraged by the council’s plans to build housing on a local playground.
The playground was built in memory of the 116 school students and 34 adults who died when coal waste from a local mine engulfed their school in 1966.
The memorial playground was built with donations.
Figure it out - £437 thousand
THE AMOUNT that Network Rail gave its five bosses in bonuses. When criticised, Network Rail chair Ian McAllister said, “What other members of the public think about it is irrelevant.”
“Mr Blair owes me the life of one son, a debt he cannot repay. It would be a step in the right direction if he apologised to me and resigned.”
REG KEYS father of a British soldier killed in Iraq
“The very impossibility of questioning the war because it’s not ‘the decent thing to do’ makes the play a personal tragedy. It is the tragedy of Stanhope.”
Review of a play performed in 1971 at Fettes school, where Tony Blair studied. Blair played Stanhope
“The political differences are dreadful. But only between the two Labour members.”
PETER WISHART, Scottish National Party MP on the House of Commons’ pop group MP4, which he, a Tory and two Labour MPs have formed
“Refer to the US marines in the foreground as ‘sharpshooters’ not ‘snipers’.”
JOHN MOODY, news chief on Murdoch’s Fox News
In a memo to staff about coverage of the Fallujah massacre
“In France, the National Front and the Trotskyists want a referendum on Europe.”
DENIS MACSHANE, Minister for Europe January 2004, on why France should not have a referendum on Europe
“I am pleased at the courage of the president.”
DENIS MACSHANE, July 2004, welcoming French president Chirac’s decision to hold a referendum on Europe