Thursday, November 2

In Conversation with Jack Straw MP Click for more info

I wouldn't usually have attended something like this (especially on a Thursday), but I seeing as it was on the way home and promised to end by 730pm, I thought I'd give it a go.

But despite overrunning (even politicians can be tardy, it seems) it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. Yes, unfortunately it was mainly about those veil comments, and yes, 80% of that was a waste of time too, but what was left behind was worth listening to. I guess all the usual cliches (there were student protesters outside, and some vividly single minded people inside) just come with the territory.

After the pre-preamble, Sir Sigmund Sternberg (of the Three Faiths Forum) spoke about the importance of inter-religious dialogue, paying homage to the Labour party while doing so. He then introduced the main speaker for the evening, Jack Straw MP.

Unlike certain other members of his party, Straw seems much better at delivering prepared statements than being put on the spot. Still that's not a bad thing since he did a good job of defending/explaining/backtracking on (depending on your viewpoint) the whole veil thing. For me, a notable point was that although he would often request a visitor take off their veil, he wouldn't let any denial of that request hinder any help he could offer to them. Thank goodness for that.

He would also be against any change in the law that would ban the wearing of the veil (although in retrospect this doesn't really mean much. It's not like any such ban wouldn't be so obvious). Anyway, although I reckon he said enough to alleviate his mainstream critics, I'm not sure he tackled any of the more pragmatic concerns people have, like the ones I've described previously here (for a self-publicising example).

Not that I had a chance to raise them today. Yet again we had the same obvious, repeated and largely irrelevant questions asked by an audience more interested in scoring points than debate. And if that makes me sounds bitter, it's probably because I am. Still, I don't think that it's unreasonable to get frustrated at yet more accusations of breeding Islamophobia or at the umpteenth reference to the Iraq war. It also didn't help that Jack Straw struggled to respond to most of them.

So anyway, yes, tonight was interesting, but again it was more 'cos of the interactions and reactions of everyone involved rather than what any single person had to say. It's also amusing to compare my thoughts on event to that of others including the general press (The BBC and the second Guardian article linked below are especially head-scratching).

I hope I'm not being a sucker when I say that Straw now stands a bit taller in my eyes. That said, I still think he's weird for allowing a piece of cloth get in the way of effectively talking to someone. I wonder if he'll ever get over that.

More info and coverage at The BBC, The Guardian, Google Blog Search and The Guardian again.

2 comments:

  1. I was SOOOOO annoyed on Thursday afternoon, given I had a ticket for this event, but oh no, I had to do freebie work for another barrister in Chambers til 7pm.

    Apparently its recorded on one of the City Circle links so i'll look out for you asking questions, somewhere in the audience ;-)

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  2. "That said, I still think he's weird for allowing a piece of cloth get in the way of effectively talking to someone."

    given that facial expression forms a significant part of communication, i'm not so surprised. horses for courses i spose.

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