Monthly Archives: November 2004

Banners to Order

The picture of Bill Challis with banner comes from the demonstration to save Rover in Birmingham. Bill was amazed when in the Birmingham Central Library he found this picture on an official postcard. When the occasion arises Bill is the man to see about an appropriate banner. On another occasion a group of us went to London to the Labour Party Headquarters, then at Millbank. Bill prepared the (two-sided) banner and he and Cllr Phil Murphy took up position.
Bill's Banner
At Millbank we were invited inside with a petition containing over 250 signatures of Labour Party members in Perry Barr Constituency alarmed at the clearly rigged selection procedure. Although postal voting at elections became an issue this year, this had come from long practice in the art. The banner did its work and it was seen on television across the Midlands Region at least. The rest of us went in to meet Lord (Tom) Sawyer and some party officials who listened to what we had to say. There was clear unease that two of us had failed to come in with our banner. Since the National Executive Committee was meeting the banner was seen by Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and a number of Cabinet members. Tony smiled and waved to Bill and Phillip.
Banners at Millbank
Banners at Millbank

Meeting Yasser Arafat

There were seven of us from Birmingham, all members of the City Council, visiting Ramallah at the end of January 2004. We were taken there in a mini-bus driven by Issa from Bethlehem. We had left the main highway from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem to go down what looked like a side-track. Up to then all the roads off had been blocked by huge boulders. The check point before Ramallah was crazy. Issa forced his way through the chaotic traffic . We saw long lines of pedestrians queuing up to get through the barrier manned by young Israeli soldiers. People in need of medical aid, such as pregnant women, had died in this situation

When we finally reached Ramallah we passed by what looked like a completely bombed out compound. We were told that this was Yasser Arafat’s Head Quarters. A few days later we were inside to meet the man, a long serving leader of the Palestinian State. Despite having brokered successive agreements on bringing about a peace settlement he had been brought to this state by the forces of occupation.
We went through a security check by the guards and handed in mobile phones. Inside there was a suite of small rooms, and finally the small state room where we gathered round a table to meet this small, slightly frail but very distinguished figure. We had heard that Mr Arafat’s health had not been good, but we found him to be in good spirits and very alert. We introduced ourselves from Birmingham. I told him that I was a Cabinet Member responsible for Transportation in Birmingham, and that I was being heavily criticised for being away while Birmingham was experiencing freezing conditions bringing traffic to a standstill. He beamed and said “but it’s important that you have come!”

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