Condi to visit Northern England. The gathering - Pro and anti forces. Welcome and protest.
- Well I'm feeling decidedly left out of the gathering forces over Condi visit to Blackburn, Liverpool etc.As I predicted neither the American Embassy, nor the Foreign Office, nor Chatam House (a foreign affairs event organiser) have replied to my emails begging for an invite to Condi events - and as yet, I still don't know even the dates she is coming - although I bet the protestors know exactly - because the press know and no doubt protestors have sources in the press.Anyway, here's an recent press story and I've highlighted the pro-party and anti-storm which seem to be gathering.I only hope Jack Straw is getting his act together behind the scenes.Because if the media reports about Condi's visit are about protests rather than the love we Britons have for Condi, it will be entirely due to Jack Straw's incompetence in not helping to organise Condi's most enthusiastic supporters like me to help prepare the welcoming events in good time.It's exciting but also frustrating as I feel left out of the preparations - and no doubt other Condi supporters over here feel the same way.Is it this weekend coming then? I just don't know.Peter Dow, Owner Rice for President Yahoo GroupHere's that storyCurry, chips and Rice on the menu
As Jack Straw prepares to welcome Condi to the delights of Blackburn, one restaurant is ready with a warm welcome.
Sunday March 19, 2006
The ObserverAs the most powerful woman in the world, Condoleezza Rice can take her pick of places to go for a weekend jaunt. Normally, when she's not shuttling around international capitals on diplomatic business, the US Secretary of State stays with her closest friend, George Bush, at Camp David or the presidential ranch in Texas, where they indulge their shared passion for foreign policy and morning exercise.So the woman tipped for the ultimate political double of becoming America's first black and first female president must be wondering what lies in store for her following her decision to swap these finer things in life for a trip to Blackburn with Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary.The former textile town in Lancashire was once famous for being the cotton capital of the world. These days, however, it has few claims to fame other than its football team, the reference to its many potholes in The Beatles' song 'A Day in the Life', and Tommy Ball's New Giant Shoe Emporium. According to local people, this has the biggest range of footwear at the most competitive prices in the country and should not be missed.Rice is known to be an enthusiastic shopper and is a stylish dresser, but whether Straw, her new close friend and host, schedules in a trip to Tommy's during her 'informal' three-day visit remains to be seen.'Condi comes to the centre of the world,' shouted the headline in last week's local community newspaper, The Shuttle, as the town prepares to get out the bunting and stars and stripes.Straw invited Rice on this unconventional bonding session to his constituency after his visit last year to her home state, Alabama, which was on the frontline of civil rights battles in the Sixties. During that trip they attended a service for childhood friends of Rice killed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb, went to an American football match at which Straw apparently got so carried away that he presented his hosts with a signed Blackburn Rovers shirt, and ate in dress-down diners such as Jim N' Nicks, a typical southern barbecue joint.In return, Straw said he wanted to show her a part of Britain that was multi-racial and well integrated. The visit is expected to be reminiscent of President Bill Clinton's in 1998, when he dropped into a Birmingham pub for a Greenalls Bitter and a plate of chips.Blackburn's mayor, Jan Virmani, who came to Britain as a refugee from Uganda in 1972, said that despite his strong opposition to the Iraq war, which is shared by many in this largely Muslim area, he was thrilled about Rice's visit.'There are a few extremists here who will try to spoil it for everyone, but she will be warmly welcomed by the vast majority,' he said. 'I have nothing against peaceful protests. I go on anti-war walks all the time.'Although details of her visit and the exact date are being kept secret for security reasons, she is expected to visit one of the town's 37 mosques and watch a premier football match. She is also likely to attend a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.The visit has already sparked protests. Last weekend a meeting attended by more than 150 campaigners was organised by the Stop The War Coalition to oppose the visit. The controversial Respect MP George Galloway said he wanted to see the 'political dead body of Jack Straw carried out of the town hall'.But their message does not appear to be getting through. A typical response among cafegoers and market shoppers yesterdaywas: 'Who? Connie who? Candy what? Never heard of her', followed by an incredulous, 'Coming here? Blackburn? Why?'There is one place, however, where a welcome as warm as any she would receive in her home state of Alabama awaits her.Just off Barbara Castle Road, hidden between a sub post office and a small butcher's shop in the Whalley Range part of town is The Khyber, Blackburn's oldest and most famous restaurant. Some of the ceiling tiles are missing, others are hanging precariously by a thread. One of the bright orange plastic chairs has been ripped from its hinges and the food is served on plastic plates. But none of that matters. As those who have been coming here religiously for 40 years will testify, it is the best curry house in miles.Faheem Mohammed, whose father opened the restaurant in 1966, said he was creating a special dish just in case Condi popped in. His colleague Sirwan Mustafa, an Iraqi Kurd, whose father was imprisoned during the war with Iran, said he hoped she would. 'There is some tension here, of course, and a little racism,' he said. 'Some people do not want her to come here. But I do. We like the British and the Americans, and we'll be serving something special during the visit just in case.'North v. Deep South
· They say: 'Rich history and heritage combines with modern 21st-century townscapes.' (council website)
· Feeling peckish: Khyber restaurant, 35 Whalley Range. Serves 100+ dishes.
· Loved by all: For its shoe emporium Tommy Ball's, with its discount prices.
· Claim to fame: Featured in the Beatles song 'A Day in the Life'.Birmingham, Alabama
· They say: 'A progressive centre for medical research, banking, technology, and higher education' (government website)
· Feeling peckish: Pete's Famous Hot Dogs; he sells them for $1.51 (85p)
· Loved by all: Named by various groups as one of the best US cities in which to live
· Claim to fame: All three raw materials required to make steel - iron ore, coal and limestone - are found nearby.
Peter Dow <peterdow@...> wrote:Jack Straw plays host to Condi Rice - in Blackburn
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/26/nrice26.xmlBy Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor
(Filed: 26/02/2006)Condoleezza Rice is to be personally guided around the North West by her British counterpart, Jack Straw, who wants to show her a part of modern Britain that is multi-racial and equipped with a strong local economy during a three-day visit by the American Secretary of State.Ms Rice will be visiting Blackburn - Mr Straw's constituency - and Liverpool. On her trip Ms Rice is likely to attend a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and a Premiersip football match.
Home fixture: Condoleezza Rice and Jack StrawSadly, Blackburn Rovers, of whom Mr Straw is a passionate supporter, have no home fixture on the weekend when Ms Rice will be in Britain, but she will be able to watch Everton, Liverpool or Wigan instead without leaving the North West.The Secretary of State is a keen fan of American football, a legacy from her father, who had wanted a son.Her unusual tour of the North West will form the "return leg" of a fixture which has already seen Mr Straw visit Ms Rice's birthplace of Birmingham, Alabama, which was on the frontline of civil rights battles in the 1960s.The centrepiece of Ms Rice's British trip is expected to be a speech and question-and-answer session in Blackburn with an invited audience, organised by the Chatham House foreign policy think- tank and the BBC's Today programme.The event will also be attended by Lord Hurd, the former Tory foreign secretary.Read Peter Dow's comment (text follows) with smileys displayed properly at -Jack Straw invites Condoleezza Rice to England
Half-way to paradise. So near yet so far away.
Well of course US Secretaries of State (past and present) are ALWAYS honoured guests to Britain.
Indeed, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Condi's predecessor, had a speaking engagement in Scotland not so long ago. Excellent and I think he did an interview for British TV while he was over here.
No doubt there will be even more media coverage when a presently-serving US Secretary of State visits Britain too.
I recall there were some protestors outside the venue in Scotland where Colin Powell was speaking - were they Stop-the-war/anti-Iraq-intervention types? I guess so. So that's a wee bit of a pity but, hey, it is supposed to be a free country, so what the hell, so long as they are peaceful.
Anyway it just irks and embarrasses me somewhat to imagine that it is only the surrender-monkeys or, worse, the Al Qaeda sympathisers , that have got enough get-up-and-go to make a political statement when a US Secretary of State, past or present, comes to visit.
So anyway I'd like the British Foreign Ministry and the American Embassy people who are organising this trip to put my name down as one of the people who would really like to welcome Condi Rice to Britain IN PERSON!
So if Condi and Jack are giving a speech or two in Liverpool, Blackburn or wherever and they want some names of people in advance who want a ticket and in plenty of time so that they can vet them - security check and so on - then put my name down please.
Now Liverpool is less than 150 miles from Scotland and Blackburn is even closer, I won't need a passport, so quite frankly, if I can get an invite, I am eager to go - and maybe take a camera and take some pictures too, which would be a bonus.
Now if I were calling the shots in Britain, I'd turn out a Scottish regiment or two to give Condi an honour guard while she was here.
No expense, nor pomp, nor circumstance would be spared if the welcome committee was following my advice.
As it is, no doubt my emails to the British Foreign office won't get any more than an automatic response or a "We thank you for interest in the visit of Secretary of State Rice to the United Kingdom unfortunately ..." type of response at best.
And the staff in the American Embassy will be concentrating on keeping Jack Straw happy and so they won't give me a second thought.
So all in all, I can see this developing into a "half-way-to-paradise" situation - Condi will be "so near" to me in global terms, "yet so far away", (as the song by Billy Fury goes).
Certainly, I had NO CHANCE that Condi would accept my proposal of marriage , but I think my chances of getting some kind of invite to a Condi-event here might be better, though not good I am sorry to say.
Maybe if I am nice to Jack Straw, he'll get me an invite? Jack-Straw-for-British-Prime-Minister after Tony Blair retires anyone?
Music: Halfway To Paradise, Billy FuryPeter Dow, Owner, Rice for President Yahoo Group
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