BBC BLOGS - Barling's London

Archives for January 2010

Remembering genocide

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Kurt Barling | 19:01 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

It wasn't until 1948 that Raphael Lemkin coined the term "genocide". Lemkin was the driving force behind the UN Genocide Convention.

The wholesale slaughter of the Jewish populations of many European countries by Nazi occupying administrations made it imperative that civilised nations recognised when tyrannical regimes were engaging in murder of groups simply because of their ethnicity.

Without an accepted set of principles it would be difficult to hold those responsible to account. Human Rights emerged as the key organising principle for protecting individuals from an oppressive state.

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Has talking about race become a taboo itself?

Kurt Barling | 11:12 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

In 1968 when Enoch Powell delivered his so called "Rivers of Blood" speech, I personally recall the racial taunts over the following weeks and months at school and on the streets of North London.

It was an uncomfortable, unpleasant and sometimes downright dangerous time for many individuals whom it exposed to raw prejudice. Bigotry had seemingly been legitimised by a hitherto widely respected public figure.

Some twenty odd years later over lunch I discussed the impact of his speech on public discourse with Enoch Powell himself.

I made a very simple point; that I believed his speech had cursed all public debate on immigration, race and racism to that day. Powell didn't appear to regret the impact his speech had. He clearly believed it would remain a vexed issue for generations.

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Get onboard for the Thames Highway?

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Kurt Barling | 11:30 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

For much of the last century public transport on the Thames has been a hit and miss affair. For many Londoners it has seemed like a permanently missed opportunity to provide a practical way to move from east to west.

Long gone are the days in the 60s when the main reason for going on the river was to travel upstream to Hampton Court or downstream to Greenwich. On the way you froze and wondered why you hadn't taken the train which was far cheaper.

I recently travelled on the Thames Clipper service from Woolwich Arsenal all the way up river to London Bridge armed with nothing more than a one day Travelcard.

On the early evening run on a clear day the views travelling upstream were glorious as was the light of the setting sun. It was comfortable, warm and inviting.

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