UK: This is a sad commentary on the state of the once mighty British empire.
|Ken Livingstone is planning a "massive festival" across London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.
The event, to be staged in 2009, will involve street parties, sports venues and some of London's leading museums as well as the closure of Trafalgar Square.
Although the Mayor's office refused to provide budget estimates, it could cost up to £2 million.
The festival was agreed on the Mayor's controversial trip to Cuba last month. But Mr Livingstone's lavishing of public money to honour one of the last dictatorships in Latin America was condemned today.
"Forking out to celebrate a totalitarian regime is a choice that most Londoners will find bizarre," said Angie Bray, leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly.
"The Mayor associates himself with some of the most odious people around and it's Londoners who are being asked to pay out. Sooner or later, there will be a reckoning."
.....Mr Livingstone said: "The Cuban revolution of 1959 was an extraordinary event not just for Cuba but for the region as a whole and I have never concealed my support for this fact.
"There is no reason why Cuba should be singled out for controversy except for people coming at international issues from a very Right-wing perspective."
The Mayor pointed to Cuba's "excellent healthcare", high literacy rate and "Cuban sporting prowess" as reasons to celebrate. |
Other side of the coin.
Via Tim Blair.
|The 300th birthday of Great Britain is to pass next year without any major celebrations.
January 16 sees the tricentenary of the Act of Union which merged the parliaments of England and Scotland in 1707.
Historians consider it one of the most important events in the nation's history, laying the foundations for imperial expansion a century later.
But beyond striking a commemorative £2 coin and staging an exhibition in the House of Lords, there are no plans for anything more celebratory south of the border. By contrast, £20m is being spent on commemorating the abolition of slavery, which will also be marked by a £2 coin.
The Scottish parliament is organising a series of events involving schools, museums and galleries.
Patricia Ferguson, the Scottish minister of culture, said the union was a pivotal moment in Scottish history, and it was important to recognise the anniversary.
But when the Earl of Caithness asked how the Government planned to mark the event, Lord Davies, a minister, replied that he was not aware of any plans beyond the commemorative coin. Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, received a similar reply in the Commons.
He said he could think of no other country which would so underplay what is essentially the foundation of the modern state.
"It is extraordinary that this tricentenary, which was the basis of the British Empire, should be almost ignored. Striking a coin is not enough and there should be a meeting of both Houses of Parliament and the Scottish parliament, addressed by the Queen in Westminster Hall, to mark this properly.
"We could also have services of thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey and St Giles in Edinburgh.
"It is almost as if the Government is embarrassed about our history."|