Monday, February 27, 2006

Time for recall elections?

Ken Livingston has been suspended from office for a month by the unelected Standards Board for England. Whilst there is a need for regulation in public life, this is not the best way to do it.

Why not give the London Assembly the power of impeachment? Or better still, how about the option for a recall election? It gave Californians the chance to reject incompetent leadership.

A beacon of the wonders of devolution?

This weekend Plaid Cymru decided to relaunch itself and go forward into the next Welsh Assembly elections. And how are they doing this? By bringing Ieuan Wyn Jones back to the half of his job he gave up three years ago and having Dafydd Wigley standing again for the Assembly. At least all the stories about Dafydd Elis-Thomas returning to the leadership seem to have died down. But where are the new names? Wigley was leader twice (1981-1984 & 1991-2000), Elis-Thomas was leader once (1984-1991) and Wyn Jones has been clear leader twice (2000-2003 and since 2006) as well as part of the leadership (2003-2006) whilst Dafydd Iwan remains party president (as he has been since 2003) but not quite leader anymore. Where are the new names?

Is this really such a beacon of the wonders of devolution? At least it's been a while since the Assembly seating row.

Would it really be such a good idea to repeat this experiment in the English regions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Laura Blomeley 1983-2006

Laura BlomeleyToday I received some of the worst news possible. Laura Blomeley, last year's President of Queen Mary Students' Union, passed away on Saturday.

Over my years as a students' union officer I have had the fortune (and sometimes misfortune) to work with many different people. Many have stood out from the crowd because of their dedication to the simple cause of improving the student experience, against whatever obstacles had to be faced down. And Laura, who had to face some of the toughest odds, was one of the best of these.

When I think of Laura, I will always think of her eyes. They seemed to dominate her face, radiating at once friendliness, compassion, dedication, support and so much more. And that was Laura to a tee. She was one of those people whom it was impossible not to like. Even when one was in disagreement with her there was never any personal animosity whatsoever - it was a professional difference of opinion and in no way affected upon one's friendship with her. What was also astounding was her dedication. She was one of the rare students' union sabbatical officers who served two years, first as Vice President Education and Representation (2003-2004), then as President (2004-2005).

Each year was especially intense for those respective positions. Her year as Vice President Education and Representation saw the battle against the Higher Education Bill, bringing in university top-up fees and moving education away from being for the sake of educating and enhancing people and towards being a business. Laura was at the forefront of Queen Mary's contribution to the fight, never giving in to despair. But her term as President saw Queen Mary students come under threat at the local level, requiring ever more energy and dedication to spearhead the campaign against. This was the year that Queen Mary Students' Union was under threat from a take-over by the College, to lose all independence and become a monkey to the college organ grinder, and it seemed as though there was nothing we could do. It was Laura who rallied us, finding ways for the Students' Union to survive as an independent entity, and lobbying hard to build alliances with those in college who would support us. A referendum with the largest turnout I have ever seen in a students' union was held, generating much media coverage and giving all students the opportunity to reject the proposals. And thanks to Laura we succeeded. Soon, as part of the redevelopment of the campus, the students' union will be relocated to a new site by the Student Village. No greater tribute could be paid than to name it after Laura.

There are many moments I could recall about her, but I will stick to two. The first was when I first arrived at Queen Mary, when the position of Students' Union Postgraduate Officer was vacant. It was Laura who asked and persuaded me to stand for the post in the first place and was a huge source of help as I learnt the ropes. The second was last year, in the aftermath of the defeat of the College's attempted take-over. At a College meeting she and I both attended, an attempt was made to deny that this had ever been on the agenda. Laura stood her ground against this attempt to rewrite recent history and won the room over.

Today has been a very sad day at QMSU, and the reaction of many has shown just how much Laura meant to us all. Most apt are perhaps these words:

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burnt so very, very brightly.
Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Who let this idiot back in for consideration?

In one of the briefest candidatures ever, John Jenkins was selected as a candidate for the Welsh Assembly, then resigned within twenty-four hours.

For those with short memories or who never follow the events of the Welsh Talking Shop, Jenkins was due to be a candidate for the Welsh Assembly in 2003, but forced to resign for displaying complete stupidity and ignorance on internet forums (as a reply to a post by myself I recall). Now he's been selected again, and stood down within twenty-four hours. One has to wonder why he was ever considered, even for something as pointless as Cardiff Bay.


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