I have to admit I will be missing the next council meeting in Liverpool and the next Executive at the LGA. I will be in Mexico doing two things.
The first and most important is having a holiday with my lovely wife Erica. We haven’t had a holiday since May as the pressure of work with the new government has been too great. Mexico is a place we have always wanted to go. A land of great history where civilisations have come and gone over the centuries leaving behind them, traces of other ways, other beliefs and other practices.
I am looking forward to seeing some of these pyramids and other sites. I just get a sense of awe and wonder when I go to places where human beings stood hundreds or thousands of years ago. I am always conscious when I do so that in many places which we consider to be the third or developing world they had civilisations while our forebears lived in mud huts. When I lived in Turkey I lived near three 2,000 year old abandoned cities with temples, libraries and theatres when few in what is now the UK could do anything other than exist through subsistence farming.
I believe that Mexico can tell us a lot more that is relevant today. There is growth that is good; they have found marvellous ways of communicating with the people in their deprived areas; there is a sense of purpose about the Country. I know they have horrible problems with poverty and up near the States in particular with drug running cartels but we can learn so much from that Country.
The second reason I am going is to attend the triennial congress, World Council and Executive Bureau of United Cities and Local Government. I sit on all three of these bodies and have just been asked to undertake a review of the whole operation with Pierre Shapira, the deputy mayor of Paris and Berry Vrbanovic a councillor from Kitchener, Canada. Some would question that we should attend such a meeting or even that such an organsiation should exist. I clearly disagree for three reasons:
- There is much that we can learn from each other. The problems of urbanisation, globalisation and climate change are just some of the problems that we all face
- Local government is an important delivery agent for activities throughout the world. By working together we can bring about real change often quicker than central governments whoseem to meet internationally to score points and not bring about change
- By working together we can influence the other players and an international and global level. We will be having a range of speakers from the UN; World Bank and similar bodies. I have already been asked to hold a series of meetings with senior officials such as Joan Clos the former Mayor of Barcelona who now is head of the UN habitat operation and Billy Cobbett of the World Bank.
The UK is still one of the most important players in the World. In large parts of the globe we are listened to and I find it inconceivable that the UK should not attend and influence meetings such as this.
But I hope that there is a pay off for the UK and even my constituents in Liverpool as well. Every meeting I get to I use as an appropriate place to talk about my Country and my City. I hope that such activities over a period of time will bear fruit and bring real and tangible benefits to my home territory.
One slight snag however is that I have been asked to look at problems within the Middle East section of the World body. I did a lot of work in Africa which seems to have borne fruit but the Middle East!? Let’s face it we Scousers are not renowned for our tact and diplomacy!
Just for the record. All Erica’s expenses and my none conference expenses are being paid by us!