On bicycle's, on Boris

Having finally gotten around to reading the excellent Dave Hill newsletter I see we are ever closer to having our own version of the velib in London, as part of Boris' legacy of his first, and hopefully, final term.

I'm all for a velib type scheme, it was in fact a Lib Dem policy going into the last Mayoral elections but I do have some reservations about whether London is ready for such a scheme.

Firstly, it's due to start in central London only - which means that it, like most of the other city schemes across the world, will be used mostly by tourists, rather than Londoners (who will still have their travelcards and therefore have no financial incentive to use velib) but it will be paid for by Londoners.

Secondly, are the roads in central London ready for a few thousand wobbly tourists who are coming to terms with cycling on the left? I don't cycle in central Lonond because I find it far too scary. I'm not ging up there until they have proper cycle lanes, with phsical barriers (as in a raised curb) between me and the lorries; so what's it going to be like for the tourists. We don't have the wide boulevards of Paris, in London (obviously). So, in addition to the bike scheme, more money needs to be spent on improving cycle lanes.

And lastly, although most of these schemes have ended up going out into the suburbs, wouldn't it have been better to start there? After all the majority of the very short journeys that are made by car now, and that we want to stop are in outer London, not inner London. Getting people out of their cars and onto a bike for a trip to the butchers on Lordship Lane will surely make a greater difference to people's quality of life?

So, none of these problems I have raised are insurmountable, and I am in principle in favour of a velib type scheme - however, if it is going to benefit all Londoners and not just be a bit of fancy window dressing then it needs to be better thought through.

We're not in Afghanistan to protect women's rights...

I watched one of the best Panorama's I've ever seen last night (doesn't Jeremy Vine have the easiest job in television - how much does he get paid for that topping and tailing?).

And I'm not the only one thinking about Afghanistan today, as Iain Dale has noticed, Sunny Hundal has done a very interesting post on the subject on Pickled Politics.

It was on the subject of Afghanistan and how despite 'so-called' democracy women are still treated abominably. In Herat on one day four women, in separate incidents, set themselves on fire to get away from their husbands.

They had a lady, whose teenage son had a British soldier killed in Afghanistan watch the film brought back from Afghanistan and ask her whether it's still right the the UK should be in Afghanistan - whether in fact, her son had dies in vain?

She said, that it was, that was important that we helped change Afghanistan given the treatment of women.

But that's the wrong thing to show her because we are not and never have been in Afghanistan to help the women who live there.

We're in Afghanistan for reasons of national security. The Taliban and Al Qaeda base themselves in that region on the Afghanistan/Pakistan borders (must I really call it AfPak?) and from there they plot and train people to bomb and harm British, American and other nationalities in their own countries and abroad.

It's right that the programme concentrates on the efficacy of aid going into Afghanistan and how much of it falls prey to corruption. But the only reason we give aid and the only reason we risk our soldiers lives is to shore up our own national security.

After all, we'd never gone near Basra if we really cared about women's rights and security in Iraq.

And nor would we be busy helping out British Aerospace continue to bribe and fund the decadent lifestyles of the Princes of Saud by dropping fraud enquiries.

Nope, the question of whether we pull our troops out of Afghanistan should be tested against the case for putting them in there in the first place. I foresee in the next few weeks some Lib Dem hand wringing about our role in Afghanistan, after all, everybody else is. Personally, I would prefer we sorted out Al Qaeda and the Taliban so they couldn't bomb us, and so, think we ought to keep the in there until they are incapacitated (I did International Relations at Uni not strategic studies, so I'm in no position to take a view on whether this is the best way to beat Al Qaeda - I get to define the end state without worrying about the military delivery of such an end state!).

Let's not kid ourselves that anything about UK foreign policy in central Asia or the middle east has anything to do with women's rights - it doesn't and never has.

Which is not to say that I think the that's the way it should be - I was really pleased when Labour came in in 1997 and Robin Cook put forward an ethical foreign policy and I have been very proud of Vince when he has challenged the decision to stop the investigation of the SFO into BAE by Tony Blair.

I just think we should be clear on whether UK foreign policy is working with an ethical dimension or not and our presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with National Security.

Hooray for Harriet!

What a week – not just for me (as I got married on Monday) but also for British feminism.

As I have been on honeymoon since Tuesday, I have had the luxury of wafting around reading the newspapers everyday.

And what I've read is a lot of comment about Harriet Harman, her so-called feminist agenda and what the Mail, the Spectator and the Telegraph have made of it.

In short, Harriet Harman was put in charge and took the opportunity of a smidgen of power to talk about women’s rights, inequality in the boardroom, the horrendous rape conviction rates and other items that our roundly ignored most of the time, by most of the people.

Aghast at this, Rod Liddle at the Spectator decided that the best basis on which to judge the elected deputy leader of the Labour party on whether he would want to have sex with them. I mean, this is meant to political comment!! Don't anybody dare tell me that misogyny in British politics is not mainstream after this!

The pillock from the mail went on about Harriet and her ‘controversial’ proposal to teach kids about healthy family relationships (given how many women are subject to domestic violence during their lifetime, it would seem that many of them might need it).

If I had the patience to wait for my 3g card to load up Lib Dem Blogs I may well have noticed the outrage of all our Lib Dem Bloggers and Rod Liddle’s out and out misogyny, with his little acolyte at the Mail worrying about the introduction of a ‘controversial’ feminist agenda. As it was, before I left the world of wireless broadband connection (aka our hotel at Loch Lomond) I only really saw Rob on a comfortable place, Peter Black and I think Caron calling him and the Mail out for unacceptable sexism.

I have myself been wittering on about a lot of these things, on my blog, for nearly three years now. I haven’t had many misogynists coming onto my site – mainly it’s been the defining silence of my fellow bloggers and only recently do I feel that I am not a (consistently) lone feminist Liberal Democrat Blogger. So, it’s very nice this week, to discover that in the Times, Guardian, Observer and the Indy at least there may not be approval for everything that Harriet Harman is saying but there’s is definitely approval that there should be a strong feminist voice in our country and that is good for all of us: men, women and children.

So I say, Hooray for Harriet, for winding up the misogynists and getting a bit of sensible comment about feminism and women’s equality going! And I say well done the Times, Guardian, Indy, Observer, Caron, Rob and Peter for saying that it's not good enough.

Finally, time has been called on the casual misogyny that so many employ when talking about her and other female politicians, including many, many Lib Dem bloggers – that label and oh so funny (not) play on her name of Har-person! Many have voiced disgust and irritation at it’s use and I’ve never felt that party politics excused misogyny but I leave the best deconstruction of it to, Anton Vowl, at The Enemies of Reason blog.

Anyone who says 'Harperson' should die. Look, it might have provoked a mediocre snicker the first time. Oh yes, Harperson, hoho. Not really that funny, but yes I see what you're saying. That sort of thing. But if you're still using 'Harperson' then you should just be killed. There's no use in trying to keep you alive, because there is no point, because your life means nothing. Now I'm no defender of the woman herself - God alone knows the awfulness that New Labour have brought upon this country, and she's one of the leading players - but calling someone 'Harperson' isn't funny, clever or even approaching amusing. It's just pointless, lazy, boring shite, and you need to die. There is nothing good about it. Even if you think you're using it in a way that says "Oh well if it annoys the lefties then it's worth doing" you should still be killed, because it doesn't; because it just makes you, and every argument you have, look stupid.

OK, maybe, I wouldn't go so far to suggest anyone should die, but apart from that, I feel the same way.

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