Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Day at Westminster: Air Sylhet, Greater Sylhet Development and Welfare Council UK and bye bye Blair!

Westminster was buzzing today, the wait for Blair to arrive for his final Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons - the press took over all the green bits, the campaigners hijacked Parliament Square and there was I, walking in between the two.

Of course, I didn't go inside the Commons, couldn’t get in even if I tried, people booked months in advance for this show. I had to do with watching it on BBC News. Courteous, funny, not at all sentimental, Blair gave his final performance and a great one it was. Praised by his peers including Cameron, this was the best exit Blair could hope for. Tony hasn’t wasted any of his time, he will return to us as an envoy to the Middle East! Use his Northern Ireland tactics to solve the problems of the troubled gulf. Err, yeah...luck!

After an hour of telly I made my way to the commons to join Air Sylhet for their ‘launch’…it was actually a PR-thing. They invited Khalid Mahmood MP to sit and chat and take pictures with them. The new group, Air Sylhet, came together in Birmingham to launch a new “unique” airline that would fly from regional airports from the UK to Bangladesh and the Middle East and hence provide a cheaper fare for it’s commuters. And Khalid was their Birmingham MP…

Standing by the Thames, we waited (and waited) for Mr. Mahmood to arrive and start the thing. My colleague made a comment about this being on “Bengali” time to which the Publicist for Air Sylhet got a bit defensive. Us Asians are punctual!!

Mr. Mhamood finally did arrive to meet Baroness Uddin along with the members of Air Sylhet. As the men (and woman) gathered round to take some snapshots I spot Mr. John Prescott in the background. Along with Blair, Prescott too was leaving - now no longer the deputy Prime Minster. He looked awfully pale; drunk but in good spirits to take photographs even with Air Sylhet.

I’m not a picture person, I stayed out, took my place by the balcony to be later joined by the Chairman of the Greater Sylhet Development and Welfare Council in UK - Mohammed Monchab Ali JP - who explained to me the Council had great sentimental value because 90% of Bangladeshis in the UK were from Sylhet.

The Council aims to bridge the link between Bangladeshis here in the UK and Bangladesh and in particular forge links with the younger generations. Currently the council runs a scheme whereby young British Bangladeshi students go over to Bangaldesh on a three week trip to go and interact with school kids, talk to them and in return have a greater bond with the people of Bangladesh. The trip has to be self funded except the council pays for your stay and expenses whilst in Bangladesh. Great I thought, not progressive great, but maybe I can join the scheme to visit Desh. I asked Mr. Ali what he’ll do to persuade my mum to let me go, on my own, with the council. He said he’d explain to her, inform her, will take care of all her doubts - this trip will not mean I will end up with a spouse, but rather it will be purely educational. (Don't think ammajaan will be convinced - it will still be potentially "too" dangerous.)

The council has a historian working with them when needed, currently doing his PhD on the Bengali Diaspora at Nottingham University, Asfaque Hussain his name is. [I googled but have no idea who he might be..ideas?]

Although, I am not entirely sure of the councils objectives or aware of the work they do, I would like to see more of them.

Mr. Ali is currently backing the Air Sylhet project. He believes they have a strong business plan and a lot of aviation history amongst its members. Air Sylhet now await further backing from Baroness Uddin.

Next appointment was to join the New Local Government Network Summer Reception - where everyone kept asking me what sort of career I wanted...

(umm...)

Met Ruth Kelly, drunk. Exchanged pleasantries. Like all former ministers Ruth too has to wait and see whether her job is still there or not under their new leader, our new leader mind. Didn't really know what to say to Kelly '...so you sent your child to a private special needs school?' The place was full of journalists I was told - didn't meet a single one! Met academics though, who make a living out of research into local governments - most failed to keep me interested sadly. Felt like people took interest in me because I was the only Asian there...

It would be awesome to be a parliamentarian. It is a place that is still dominated by old middle class white men, needs a bit of ruffling - let's get Salma Yaqoob in there? Let's!

I left Westminster at 5pm with my little box of Thornton chocolates courtesy of the Summer Reception.

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Air Sylhet said...
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