A tribute to my friend, Jo Cox

June 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

I don’t know if I will manage to say any of this through the tears, but these are some words I have written in a tribute to my friend Jo Cox for the Nairobi #MoreInCommon event today.

Jo had an incredible capacity to connect. Whether you knew her well or not – it doesn’t matter – the world has lost a truly remarkable mother, MP, activist and leader.

We’ll all miss her so deeply.

Today, on her birthday she had already achieved so much in such a short space of time. But more than that, she was destined for truly remarkable things

I still don’t understand how this could happen – why her?

Of all people.

She loved nothing more than a cup of tea, a laugh and a chance to chat. She was truly self-less, committed to the idea of making the world the one we all want it to be.

I worked with her closely for many years at Oxfam where I was head of media and she was head of advocacy. I also hired Brendan into the press office — two of the most remarkable people I had the fortune to work with. With Jo, our ideas often danced together She was one of the most brilliant, determined and creative advocates on the planet

I think it’s really right that we are here in Nairobi – in Africa which she cared so deeply for.She dragged Oxfam’s humanitarian campaigning to another level. With Darfur and Congo – her work on these fronts was remarkable

But she did things differently. She brought in people from all sides, even if she agreed with them or not. Having impact was more important than anything else. She was a truly tenacious Yorkshire Terrier, never letting anything go.

She then took the call to move into politics and represent her beloved Batley and Spen. In terms of pursuing change, activism can be easy. There is distacnce – you can stand away from the fray.

But choosing to enter the  political sphere is a calling that only few of us have the bravery to answer.

The last time I saw Jo was on the boat talking about the election — we were all pretty downcast. But in spite of that she focused on what could be done, rather than what wasn’t possible.  There were never any regrets, just decisions that were made.

Martin Luther King once said: “Cowardice asks the question, is it right? Expediency asks, is it politic? Vanity asks, is it popular? But conscience asks, is it right?”

Jo always asked if it was right.

The measure of each of us, is where we stand in times of crises like these.

Where fear is peddled to divide rather than unite us

Where self-interest rises and the compass of hope doesn’t know where to point

Where the political debate is a shouting match of right vs wrong and the ancient roots of a deliberative discussion struggle to rise

As Jo said, we have so much more in common and today we are here to celebrate that fact

And there is a tidal wave of hope and love that is coming together in the world to take on the financial, political, environmental crises swirling around us.

We each have a choice on how we will honour Jo.

Each day, how can we come from love in all we do?

Each day, how can we be the voice the world needs, not just an echo?

Each day, how can we surprise ourselves by seeing what we thought we couldn’t do, by seeing how easy it actually was.

It’s in these dark caves of fear that we can find our true selves and be our best, most authentic selves.

In Jo’s honour, lets come together to commit to act against the hate that killed her and live the words so beautifully spoken by Omid Safi wrote in Love in a Time of Refugees

“There is a love that stands in the midst of turmoil,

     stands up,

          and declares with a kiss

             that tenderness, kindness, and affection shall have the victory.”

And that, is all that matters.


Device addiction…

January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Enjoyed this piece by NYT’s Roger Cohen on device addiction and how conversations are perpetually disturbed by those who cannot leave their devices alone.

He says there is “Now near-universal irritation of finding conversations interrupted by a familiar glance toward the little screen, or conversations deadened by the state of near-permanent distraction from their immediate surroundings in which people live.

“Inhabiting one place — that is to be fully absorbed by and focused on one’s surroundings rather than living in some diffuse cyberlocation composed of the different strands of a device-driven existence — is a fast-dwindling ability. This in turn generates a paradox: People have never traveled as much but at the same time been less able to appreciate the difference between here and there.

“To be permanently switched on is also to switch off to what takes time to be seen. A lot of good ideas, as well as some of life’s deeper satisfactions, can get lost that way.

It’s the start of a new year, a time for resolutions. To each his own, but I know this: Nobody will ever lie on his or her deathbed and say: “I should have kept my device on longer.”

Very true.


Tanzanian Property Bubble

January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

“He says it is $4,000 a month and one year up front”.  Jesus, this wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook.   It would appear that renting in Dar es Salaam – the capital of the country 155th in the Human Development Index – seems to be more expensive than Chelsea and Kensington.  We’ve only been here two days and spent our first looking at what we couldn’t afford with ambassador and mineral worker neighbours, often in compounds with a view of cement rather than the sea, and then made another plan. We found a house up the coast in Mbezi beach which is next door to this place which should be good to pop into for pizza, tennis and borrowing their wifi.  It’s a third of the price, is short of furniture and will mean a bit of a daily battle with the commuters heading in to town but it will be great to be able to see the sea and then just walk out of a small gate and go for a swim and settle.  The kids should enjoy it too. Jimmy is happy digging and Edith swimming, or at least avoiding drowning.  Getting a house is a big breakthrough, feels like we can begin to settle, get other bearings and think about making the most of being here for the next six months.

5 Regrets of the Dying

December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Really struck by these 5 regrets of the Dying by Bonnie Ware particularly the number 3 “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”.  It’s been a very rough year for friends and family.  Talking honestly, without distraction and going into the difficult areas is something I am really committing to for this year; not easy but better than saving it for the death bed.

Smack & Smash: Boxers Enter the Political Ring

December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week, former World Heavy Weight boxer, Vitali Klitschko will throw his weight not into punching someone, but into winning the election as Mayor of Kiev. His “Punch” party is new to the political fray but he is committing himself to reform. “I am drawn to politics because Ukraine has struggled to break free of massive cronyism and corruption under existing politicians, to establish a vibrant democracy where any citizen has a fair chance to prosper,” he said.

People’s of corruption and kleptocrats has driven the revolutions this year. This has led to a vast range of new actors and parties stand for power as the old exit stage left. While the Muslim Brotherhood look set to gains in elections in Egypt, in Europe the public are turning to anything, as long as it looks different. “Finally: Some Normal People” was the slogan that helped the Pirate Party in Germany hold the balance of power in Berlin’s Parliament with their agenda for free local transport, demands for transparent government as well as polygamy.

Citizens dissatisfaction is driving new demands for better, cleaner more transparent democracy. And big shifts in global power are likely next year as elections take place in France, US, Mexico and India. In France, Avaaz is polling its members and is organising a campaign to clean out corruption in the country for the election and Avaaz is supporting opposition groups in Yemen and Syria so that when the revolutions are secured, a new democracy can set root. If 2011 is the year that the people roared, will 2012 be the year that politicians listened.

4 things I read this weekend

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is what jumped out for me as being important / interesting this weekend, designed for a different audience but have tweaked to share it here.

I really enjoyed the FOOC by Kevin Connolly on buying shirts in Libya and also curious to know how much a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow puts on sales-wise, Indie, Obs & Sunday Times went for it this weekend.

1) The New Middle Classes Rise Up: First the fight against corruption / Next the fight for Democracy
This article really struck me as one of the best things I have read for a long time. It talks about how the M/Classes in 13 emerging economies are growing in their activism against corruption (eg India & Anna Hazare / China & the rail crash) and how it could migrate from a protest force against corruption into a political force for democracy. Also interesting to note that in China, the protest in Dalian against a fire was the biggest the country had seen since Tiannamen Square.

Some fascinating polling research in here and it brought together lots of loose strands and placed it under a compelling narrative; 1 off corruption protest leads to campaigns for better governance. As an aside, also fascinating to read about Sina Weibo & its 140 mn users (mainly m/class) as a social media means for us to consider in our comms into the country

2) The Economy / Taxing the Rich
“Obama’s f*cked if the economy’s f*cked” is one of the things that struck me from a conversation I had recently with a White House watcher. The signals are that with jobs flat lining in the US, Europe likely to do more country bail outs, Britain now considering more fiscal stimulus & a Double Dip really on the cards means for making the most out of another good crisis and going beyond the Robin Hood Tax. One answer to this could be Taxing the Rich. Interesting to see French Govt looking at this (albeit slowly), head of Ferrari in Italy wanting to be taxed more, right wing Tory MPs in the UK saying this should happen in Britain following Buffett / others opening the debate on this issue, one to watch.

3) Climate Change – The Economist
Great summary on prospects for Durban – which are pretty bleak – here which could see EU back down from 30% cuts to 20%, Canada won’t hit its targets and many others looking to go backwards.
Also, as an aside, the BBC weather programme (just happened to be on last night) was talking about 200 temperature records were broken in 2011 (eg wettest in 11 years this summer in the UK / a new high of 26 degrees in Sydney this winter / a new temp record of 47 in Childress in US / 80 cm of snow in Atacama desert); the debate with no urgency seems to need a hefty injection of it.

4) Murdoch: The Autumn Prequel
Interesting to read of splits in family (Elisabeth not wanting to step up to board / cross with James) and also seeing new people on the Board (eg Jim Breyer who is biggest investor in Facebook) as they try to de-murdoch-ify it. They have all turned down big bonuses (James has at least) and October 21st is a date we should have in the calendar as that’s there annual meeting

… for those that missed it, it seems to be blowing up in Australia with Gillard / News Intl there, Sept 13th will see the Greens put down their amendment

Ou est Cantona?

December 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Trying to get hold of Eric Cantona with an idea which will hopefully be more succesful than the bike heist. Only trouble is Eric la Red doesn’t seem to answer his phone. Too busy trawling for sardines.