29th June, 2007
Not much has been revealed about who planted the car bomb in central London early this morning.
BBC News online has some pictures from the area. A bit obvious to point this out but I think it’s worth saying that whoever did this planned an indiscriminate act of mass-murder rather than making some elaborate political point.
Updated: Have changed the title of this topic to reflect the attack today in Glasow. What saddens me is also that regular commenters here cannot help descending into making smart-arse remarks at each other for little particular reason. If a bunch of progressive readers of a progressive blog cannot help attacking each other, what hope is there for the rest of this country?
Update 2: It’s too early to speculate how the two attacks are related but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more copycat killers.
Update 3: Worth reading, Hassan Butt – My appeal to fellow Muslims.
Meanwhile, US air strikes have killed over 80 civilians in Afghanistan.
Update 4: I have some sympathy for Josh Freedman Berthoud‘s warning on using the phrase ‘Asian looking men’. They did the same with Charles De Menzes and look how that turned out.
28th June, 2007
There is a smell of panic in the air. Southall MP Piara Khabra’s recent death means the constituency is now up for a by-election. That will take place in three weeks time – 19th July. The Southall-Ealing area has symbolic importance for two reasons: firstly, Labour had a huge lead of 11,000 over rivals (48.76% of votes) and if any of the other parties win it will be a huge blow for them. Secondly, it is an overwhelmingly Asian area and a loss means the winner will claim quite loudly that Labour can no longer take the vote of ethnic minorities for granted.
At the last election the other candidates looked like this: Nigel Bakhai (LD) 11,497 votes; Mark Nicholson (Cons) 10,147 votes. There was some initial worry in the Labour camp that the Libdems might make a big push with an Asian/Sikh candidate. Except that David Cameron has dropped a mini-bombshell by parachuting in Tony Lit, son of Avtar Lit (chairman of popular Southall-based radio station Sunrise and who himself ran as an independent in 2001), as their candidate. At this point the local Labour party must have panicked and decided to ditch their idea of imposing an all-women-shortlist (at least not until the next general election) and invited everyone to put their names forward in the hope the seat isn’t lost by someone inexperienced.
There are a few points to make here: Southall desperately needs new blood, one of the reasons why I welcomed the all-women-shortlist. Khabra’s stronghold was the unions and er…let’s just say rumours were abound of fake names on votes and other tactics (I don’t know if they were true or who was responsible). Either way the field is clear for a new candidate and there’s no doubt all three parties will push hard. Yesterday David Cameron made a trip to Southall to show he meant business. It’s not clear whether Ming will deploy his zimmerframe. There is also a significant and growing Muslim population in the area, one that candidates have traditionally broadly ignored in the past. So the success of any candidate may also depend on wooing them. The point is that this seat is more serious for Labour than Sedgefield, which will have a by-election on the same day. The Labour hustings will take place on Tuesday and the vote on Wednesday. Expect Gordon Brown to keep a keen eye. At this stage my view is that if Labour pick some old-skool councillor or crony of Piara Khabra then they deserve to lose this seat.
Update: Just to be clear, I’m not running for the seat or any political office anytime soon. That wasn’t my impending announcement. But I am intrigued by Sonika Nirwal and want to see how she does in the hustings. An Asian woman in the area would definitely be a good idea.
26th June, 2007
You’d think, going by the news over the last 24 hours, that we’ve just experienced the second coming (some people appear to think we have). Brown is basking in the limelight as the Prime Minister Unelect, Blair has been given an incredulity inducing new position to bring
war ‘peace’ to the Middle East and amazingly the rest of the world has other things on it’s mind.
Growing numbers of people worldwide view environmental problems, pollution, infectious diseases, nuclear proliferation and the widening gap between rich and poor as the most menacing threats facing the planet, according to a 47-nation survey published yesterday by the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project.
The survey, which conducted more than 45,000 interviews, finds that global opinion is increasingly wary of the world’s dominant countries but also unimpressed by aspiring leaders in Iran and Venezuela who challenge the international status quo. In contrast, the UN receives strong support. [Via The Guardian]
That last bit is important in my view, we wont get anywhere near a stable world without some kind of global co-ordination. Too many domestic issues are now defined abroad and without any real influence we are caught in the maelstrom of Geo-Political manoeuvring.
George Monbiot, despite his faults, wrote an interesting book a few years back about the need for a global democratic government (more on that here). It detailed broadly how it might work, I’m beginning to think the proposal might need serious consideration…
But anyway, back to the spectacle and substance of who Brown has chosen for his first cabinet…
25th June, 2007
Tony Blair recently wrote an open letter to various Asian women groups to offer his support on legislation around forced marriages. He has finally started paying some attention to this problem and I’m glad of that.
Here’s the letter.
I am writing to you because I know how effectively you have campaigned for action against forced marriages and your close involvement with Lord Lester in shaping his Private Member’s Bill on this important issue. So I wanted to tell you personally about the Government’s intention to support the Bill and to help strengthen the protections it gives to prevent people being married against their will.
Forced marriages are an inhuman and highly damaging practice and we are determined to take seriously our responsibility to prevent them and support the victims. As you will know, the Government has already made progress in this area.
We have already raised from 16 to 18 the age for gaining access to the UK for the purpose of marriage and are now consulting on increasing it again to 21. We have also set up the joint Foreign Office / Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), the only one of its type in the world. The FMU works closely with our consular offices and now helps around 300 victims of forced marriages a year. Some of those it helps are as young as ten.
But the Government has also accepted that more needs to be done. Forced marriages are already against the law but a national consultation exercise last year strongly suggested that specifically criminalising them might not be effective so we have looked to see how better use of existing legislation, civil remedies and the family courts could increase protection.
Lord Lester’s Bill, which you have helped draft, is very much along these lines. By extending the reach of the Family Law Act, it will give the courts powers to prevent forced marriages or, where one has already taken place, to remove the victim to safety. Breaches of injunctions would be contempt of court and could lead to arrest. The Bill would also enable relatives and friends to appeal to the court for protection of the victim in a forced marriage.
The Government has also worked with Lord Lester to strengthen and widen protections against forced marriages from the original proposals in the Bill. This, in particular, includes tougher action against third parties who can help coerce people into marriage. The overall impact of the Bill will be to make it easier to protect victims and for the courts to intervene to stop this illegal activity.
Government support for the Bill, of course, means that these added and much needed protections now have a much greater chance of becoming law. I am very pleased that we have been able to work with you on these proposals and believe they will have a big impact in stamping out this cruel practice.
Southall Black Sisters
Rights of Women
Hounslow Domestic Violence Network
Asian Family Counselling Service
Newham Asian Women’s Project
Don’t want to make it sound like this is my doing but I complained about Labour’s inaction in The Times in February, just before Blair’s u-turn.
This Government, instead of making small noises about deploring violence against women and not tolerating so-called honour killings, needs to take firm steps in fully supporting such women if they face domestic abuse. At present most victims face not only difficulty getting access to social support but also have to go to extraordinary lengths to prove they are genuine victims.
Labour has also failed to take meaningful action against forced marriages, which is part of the broader problem.
The Information Centre for Asylum and Refugees’ (ICAR) rights and responsibilities project is addressing how the particular experiences and legal status of refugees affects their own understanding and perception of their rights and responsibilities in the UK.
As the final part of a four-stage consultation, an interactive online forum has been launched with a commentary by Gareth Morrell, the project researcher. This forum addresses the policy implications arising from the discussions in the previous consultations and asks where the rights and responsibilities of refugees fit into the wider policy context of integration and cohesion.
Please read the commentary here and add your own thoughts and comments on the issues raised by the project.
Forty Years on: Israel, the Occupied Territories and International Law
This is the first in a series of meetings by Independent Jewish Voices whose purpose is to explore and elaborate the principles and themes of their Declaration. The focus of this evening will be principle 3: “Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law.”
40 years after the June war of 1967 and the start of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, three eminent professors of international law will discuss the status of international law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and ask what requirements this imposes on both the occupying power and on the people under occupation.
Well, she was my second choice for deputy leadership. I went to a New Statesman event recently and when Jon Worth announced he managed Harman’s website, people snickered. As Martin Kettle admitted, most commentators and outsiders have underestimated Harman and Cruddas’ popularity at the grassroots. Hehe.
Harman, now appointed Chair of the Labour party, wants to be a “champion for women” and is firmly on the left (and will be supported by the now emboldened Jobn Cruddas). It is probably the best outcome for the party. Polly Toynbee is triumphant and says Harman also wants the party to apologise for the “errors of Iraq”. Apologising is always good as I said earlier. I think Labour finally has something to cheer about.
24th June, 2007
The last time I was in Paris, riots broke out. Let’s hope there are better omens this time. I’m off until Thursday evening for a conference. A few posts have been scheduled for the next day or two and I’m sure the other Picklers will chip in. I have some exciting stuff happening in July and can’t wait to tell you folks about it soon.
23rd June, 2007
News has reached me via the fine folk at PAIH that another asylum seeker family are at risk of detention and ultimately deportation.
Saima Asim arrived in the UK six years ago with her two sons, now seven and eleven years of age, after fleeing her violent husband and in laws back in Pakistan.
Since arriving both she and her sons have integrated well. Her sons both speak English exclusively (in the event of their deportation I do hope the Home Office supplies a couple of phrase books as a leaving gift) and Saima has been active in various church and community voluntary projects.
Unfortunately Ali, her eldest son was recently hospitalised after being assaulted by a gang and is still receiving treatment for the injuries he sustained.
The whole family have been asked to report to the Home Office in Brand Street whereas normally only Saima is asked to report.
PAIH have organised a protest outside Brand St, in Glasgow tomorrow at 9:30am. If you can attend and wish to help it would be much appreciated.
Failing that you could also write to the first minister, your MSP, your MP and Dr John Reid who I’m sure will be more than sympathetic.
Finally here are statements from Saima and her eldest son.
“I’m a mother and i don’t know what to do. The Home Office said that we must report on monday. we are terrified about this because normally its just me who reports and lots of families have been taken away recently. But ali was attacked by a gang of boys on friday outside our for defending his little brother from being hit – this is the third time. I took him to the hospital. the emergency doctor said we must attend both the doctor and the glasgow dental Hospital on Monday because the cuts in his head are so deep after they beat his head and face with a metal knuckleduster. His teeth are also broken and moving very badly and could be permanently damaged. I reported it all to the police but those kids are still playing outside our home and my kids stay in all the time except for school or with me. I don’t know whether i should take my sick kids to hospital tomorrow or do what the home office and report there. If they detain us it will be the worst thing, i tried to save myself and my children, there is nothing and noone who will stand up for us in Pakistan. We came here for refuge not benefits. My kids are settled here, and i would like to be able to give back to this community and find work so we can stand on our own two feet. Ali would like to become a doctor one day, he could do something good for this country, we all could given the chance.”
“On Friday 22/6/07, I was coming home from my mum’s friend’s home when i saw 2 big boys,they were asking me why i batterd a boy called Stephan, i tried to tell them i didnt but the first boy started to batter my brother Bilal i tried to save him then the second boy hit me with a big piece of metal which gave me a burst head which i have stiches and then started to kick me on the face and gave me a bruised eye, and broken teeth and gave my brother a bruised face and neck.I am really afraid now this has happend to me 3 times and my brother 2 times the police have done nothing about the 3 incidents.
“My friend Leonard is at St Brendans Primary too, and he went to the home office him and his family to the detention centre and thats how he talks about it being so horrible, they wont let you out, you cant go out, they keep you locked up and maybe they will send you back to your country. But Pakistanâ€™s not my country cos it doesnt feel like it and i dont want to go back. My best friend Osama one day he was in the class and the next day he wasn’t. We thought he was just off. But he never came back. Our teacher Mrs Taylor said maybe he’ll come back but he didn’t. She used to talk about it but then she never mentioned it again. I think she was sad like us because we all missed him in the class and he was a really a good student. Some kids at school told me after that the police came to his house and just took him and his family back to their country. I tell my wee brother maybe they will take us away one day so he has some idea what’s going to happen, Bilal cries about it cos he was really small when he came here. Both of us remember scotland but we don’t remember anything about Pakistan. My mum cries a lot at night and is quite ill”.
Please leave your birthday greetings for my fabulous mother, the Chairwoman, and anything else that you fancy in the comments below. No politics please.
22nd June, 2007
Ken Livingstone’s attempts to make the ‘living wage’ a vital plank of his policies in London should be wholly supported in my view. On Thursday he managed to help defeat an attempt to block a living wage provision for cleaners. All those opposed to the living wage were Conservative party members and his attack on them yesterday is also to be applauded.
It is of course a great example of “progressive” policies to describe the proposal to pay cleaners, one of the lowest paid groups of workers in London, a living wage as ridiculous. But at least Londoners now know what a vote for this “progressive” agenda means – a vote to cut cleaners pay.
His pandering towards dodgy Sikh, Hindu and Sikh groups may be a problem but on poverty and green issues he is right more often than not.
21st June, 2007
Writer Rick Perlstein has an interesting article in this week’s American liberal magazine The Nation titled Will the Progressive Majority Emerge?
His point can be summarised as thus: an increasing number of Americans, contrary to popular opinion at home and abroad, are increasingly ‘progressive’ in their views on various issues from unions to abortion. A steadily decreasing number see themselves as Republican (only 25%), and an increasing number should be voting for the Democrats. The problem is that people are not voting Democrat in increasing numbers because for some reason they don’t think the party is aligned with their views (even if it is). The broader point is about the viability of polling but there’s some interesting data about the increasing number of socially liberal Americans, who happen to be drowned out by ‘the God squad’, so to speak.
Two points spring to mind.
The head of a Birmingham Sikh temple and his family had to flee their home after it was targeted by arsonists in what is believed to have been been a reprisal attack for allowing a mixed marriage.
Three cars were set ablaze outside the Handsworth Wood home of Jarnail Singh Bhogal, president of the Ramgharia Sikh Gurdwara in Graham Street, Hockley. The attack in the early hours of yesterday comes in the wake of protests against the marriage, the details of which were posted on an online Sikh forum naming the temple leaders. [Birmingham Post]
This follows that recent march in B’ham of Sikhs ‘against extremism’. Looks to me as if there are some people in the Midlands intent on creating trouble. Someone has also pointed me to this shadowy group being behind some of the trouble. Anyone know more about them?
20th June, 2007
The current edition of Prospect Magazine has an extensive article by Shiv Malik titled My Brother the Bomber.
It’s an illuminating insight into the life of Mohammed Sidique Khan (MSK), the ringleader of the 7/7 terrorists. A humane picture almost. The full article is well worth reading.
I have two issues with this article: the first on the nature of terrorism and the second on the solution.
The BBC reports:
The House of Commons’ oldest MP, Piara Khabra, has died aged 82. He had been the Labour MP for Ealing Southall since the 1992 general election. He was a member of the constitutional affairs select committee and had a special interest in India. His researcher Julian Bell said he was “remarkable servant of the people”. He said: “At an age when most people had long since retired he was still energetically tackling individual and constituency problems.”
Mr Khabra had already announced his decision to retire at the next general election, and a candidate is to be selected from an all-women short list.
Consider this a dignified remembrance open thread…
19th June, 2007
It was unsurprising to find that right-wing newspapers were pompously pointing fingers at the BBC’s apparent liberal-left bias, using a few odd examples, when its impartiality report came out yesterday.
The Sunday Times said: “the bias has extended across drama, comedy and entertainment, with the corporation pandering to politically motivated celebrities and trendy causes”. The Daily Mail: “BBC comes under fire for institutional left-wing bias”, adding that, “senior figures at the corporation were forced to admit it was guilty of promoting left-wing views and an anti-Christian sentiment”. But as its media correspondent Torin Douglas points out:
In fact, the report doesn’t reach that conclusion – though it does quote people who hold those beliefs – and it also reflects concern over programmes associated with the Make Poverty History campaign, notably The Vicar of Dibley. In fact, the report is a remarkably frank dissection of the BBC’s attempts – and difficulties – in maintaining impartiality in the 21st Century, across its wide range of outlets and programmes.
Former political editor Andrew Marr said the BBC is “a publicly-funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnic minorities and almost certainly of gay people, compared with the population at large”. All this, he said, “creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC”.
I don’t know the figures for other groups but ethnic minorities are not over-represented at the BBC. The corporation releases figures on this sort of thing and the numbers are around 9-10%, which reflects the UK but is deeply unreflective of London. Then it comes down to a decision on whether the BBC should recruit the best person for the job (from a pool of applicants) or seek to reflect the ethnic make-up of Britain. If anything, the Beeb seems to have a bias against recruiting too many ethnic minorities.
But there’s two main points to be made.
1) The main report actually signals an official move towards ‘radical impartiality‘ as Peter Horrocks called it last year. I was invited to an internal BBC debate about that remember? As I’ve said before, the BBC should focus less on radical impartiality and more on being informative. The ‘radical impartiality’ initative partly comes from an internal BBC realisation that the consensus on certain issues is shifting and they can do nothing to control that. So they have to invite people on with more radical views. I think this is short-termist thinking.
2) Not enough is said by liberals about the BBC’s more blantant right-wing bias, as Johann Hari did recently. This is dangerous for the left because it means BBC producers will become convinced they have to move further to the right in order to get to the centre-ground. Liberals don’t get annoyed enough about right-wing bias because we see it everywhere, especially in the printed press.
For example, when the Comission for Cohesion and Integration report came out, a feature in BBC news kept referring to it only as “the report” without mentioning the authors or the context, and concentrated only on the troubles local communities faced when new immigrants from Poland moved in. It’s a good, recent example of producers trying to condense a complex debate into a 2 minute package that focuses only on one aspect (and that too coincidentally negative towards immigration). Liberal-left bias at the BBC? Pah!
There’s no other way to respond to this but with a laugh. The Muslim Council of Britain have released a statement saying: “The MCB considers it yet another example of insensitivity to Muslim opinion that will only result in their further alienation.”
Alienation has become the MCB’s favourite word now. Why? Because ‘alienation’ leads to suicide bombers of course. Hence Rushdie’s knighthood will lead to more young, angry Muslim men and more suicide bombers if the MCB is to be believed. They don’t have much faith in the Muslim youth do they? Maybe the MCB could respond by getting Sir Iqbal Sacranie to give up his knighthood in protest. Plus, it looks like the Pakistani minister too has backtracked. I don’t understand why our govt is being so apologetic. If a Pakistani minister is encouraging suicide bombings here then we should respond by cutting off all their foreign aid.
18th June, 2007
Banaz Mahmod, who was murdered by her father, never had a funeral. Her grave is without a name or a memorial. The remembrance service will start with a meeting to share our memories, thoughts and experiences about Banaz and other victims of so-called ‘honour’ killing. Let us pay our respects next week.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 1pm – 4pm
Morden Assembly Hall, Tudor Drive SM4 4PJ, London.
Map / Facebook.
Oh god, here we go again.
Pakistani lawmakers passed a government-backed resolution Monday demanding Britain withdraw the knighthood awarded to author Salman Rushdie, condemning the honour as an insult to the religious sentiments of Muslims. In the eastern city of Multan, hard-line Muslim students burned effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Rushdie. About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, “Kill him! Kill him!”
Sheesh. Maybe Musharraf should sort his own problems out before telling others what to do. What’s interesting though, as a friend who called me and said just now, is that British Muslim orgs have been remarkably quiet on this issue given the MCB came about thanks to Rushdie. I think it may be a sign of their political maturity (however negligible that may be), that they’ve realised there’s little to be gained from dredging this up all over again. Or have I spoken too soon? Let’s see.
Update: I spoke to soon about the MCB. Political maturity? Fogeddaboudid. Anyway, more interesting is this quote I found (via SepiaMutiny):
Let me repeat what I said at the beginning: Britain isn’t Nazi Germany. The British Empire isn’t the Third Reich. But in Germany, after the fall of Hitler, heroic attempts were made by the people to purify German thought and the German language of the pollution of Nazism. Such acts of cleansing are occasionally necessary in every society. But British thought, British society, has never been cleansed of the filth of imperialism. It’s still there, breeding lice and vermin, waiting for unscrupulous people to exploit it for their own ends.
That was Salman Rushdie in 1982. No wonder Priyamvada Gopal was annoyed.
Later today Hillary Benn MP, International Development Secretary, will host a debate at the House of Commons on: ‘The Middle East: How to make peace possible’, sponsored by the Fabians and FPC. Given the carnage in Gaza and West Bank now, it looks easier to draw blood from stone than see peace in the ME. Earlier this month I mentioned the publication of Professor Tony Klug’s paper which has prompted this debate.
The 30 or so pages in the paper are definitely worth reading. Prof Klug does something interesting; he has written it from a future period looking back at how peace broke out in the ME. He constructs a series of events that lead to peace based not on what he thinks should happen, but going by statements already made by various politicians. His point in essence is that everyone wants peace, it’s just a matter of getting the ball rolling. The question is who has the balls to start. It’s very convincing and almost electrifying. You can almost believe it could happen.
Which brings me to the current state of affairs, on which I have a few points to make.
17th June, 2007
But the Labour Party has lost its way. Its electoral strategy is driven by the imperative of power retention, with policy being formed out of an analysis of the preferences and prejudices of swing voters in marginal seats. This has led to the thesis that dominating the politics of the mythical Middle Englander is the only strategy to retain power. This ‘precision bombing’ of swing voters in super-marginals (about two per cent of the electorate) to win elections is creating a political vacuum elsewhere in the country.
This analysis is, as I see it, the fundamental and deep-rooted problem with the Labour party today. And guess who’s bold enough to say it?
16th June, 2007
It’s good-news-weekend! Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, the woman who stands between us and the gulag (ok, I had too much wine earlier) has been made CBE. More evidence that John Reid’s ass is truly grass. Next time I’m going to have an extra drink in her honour. Oh, Salman Rushdie was also awarded but I’ve never managed to finish any of his books. But others say he’s good.
15th June, 2007
Good news readers. The Guardian reports today that “dedicated teams of senior prosecutors” will be deployed to “honour killing hotspots” around the country. “The move is designed to boost conviction rates and improve protection for victims.”
This has been long needed and I hope more parents will be prosecuted for ‘Retarded Rabbit Syndrome’ (read this explanation). The newspaper also points out: “Under the new Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act, if a person fails to intervene to protect a family member they too can face justice” – good! Incidentally, I’m now veering between ‘Shame Killings’ and RRS as the new way to describe so-called ‘Honour killings’. What say you?
The British Oppression demo, which I mentioned earlier, is definitely taking place today. I’m surprised it was allowed to go ahead. As many on the earlier post and on blogs have pointed out, it is very likely to be Al-Mujjies and Al-Gubbies who are behind this rather than Hizb ut-Tahrir. Which begs the question: why would the police give a bunch of people most-likely-to-become-terrorists permission to demonstrate in front of Downing Street?
Update: I managed to talk to Riazat Butt from Islamophonic who went to the event and any suspicion that this was stage-managed by the police to give Muslims a bad name can be dispelled. She told me this.
There were around 200 Muslims, 200 NF/BNP supporters and around 300 police at the event. Most men wore masks around their faces and all the women, who were in a separate bit from men, wore veils (including a 6-8 year old girl). There were around 4 speakers and each was heavily shielded by supporters so no one could actually see who it was. Clearly the demonstrators were aware that the police was trying to identify them.
Riazat went into the crowd of Muslim supporters to record the speeches but was told off by some men for not wearing a veil and said she shouldn’t be standing with the men because that was un-islamic. She said she was quite intimidated and felt treated like a second-class citizen. Anjem Choudhary was their spokesperson of course. In his interview he condemned organisations like the MCB but was much nicer to Hizb ut-Tahrir. Well, ain’t that sweet…
Oh, and apparently the placards were completely non-inflammatory. The Al-Mujjies do have brains then. Choudhary was nevertheless calling for Shariah law to be established in Britain. Well there’s a surprise.
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Almost every day the Guardian’s well-informed technophile Jemima Kiss plugs something about Facebook on her Digital Digest blog. That’s not surprising, I’m becoming a bit unhealthily obsessed by this social networking platform too. But from a different perspective; I want to see how Facebook can change politics.
Earlier this week Bebo, a rival to Facebook, hosted a discussion at the House of Commons with Joe Trippi, the man credited for helping Howard Dean harness the web for his 2004 campaign, explaining what impact the internet will have on politics. I’ve been spending an extraordinary time thinking about this lately. But rather than write a full thesis here I want to touch upon something I wanted to say at the event.