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Discussions, dancing, fireworks and Japanese tea

Today the G8 leaders arrived in town. Not the same town the media and the rest of us are in, though – the leaders themselves are about thirty miles up the road. 

The media and non-government centre for the summit is part shopping mall, part hotel lobby, part Blackpool Pleasure Beach. You can drop into the year-round Christmas shop or stop and marvel at the life-sized Daniel and the Dixieland Diggers animatronic bears. (Actually they don’t seem to move, so not the greatest credit to the animatronics industry). 

Gordon Brown arrived talking about the global food crisis and the need for Britons to throw away less food. I think I read that we bin about a third of what we buy uneaten, so he has a point. Food price hikes are causing real hardship for some in the UK and other G8 countries, but for families in the poorest countries they’re a matter of life and death. 

Much of the G8 discussion was on this today, with African leaders here too to make their case. Trying to find out what is going on is notoriously difficult at these summits so we pool information between the different non-government organisations here to try to get a picture. Somebody says the French are now arguing in favour of reaffirming their aid promises. We’d previously had them down as more hostile, along with the Canadians and the Italians. Progress perhaps, or maybe French spin, or just a random rumour…

Things should be clearer in the morning. The G8 sherpas are negotiating into the night so their leaders can announce a deal tomorrow on the main summit business, before they move on to a climate change discussion on Wednesday with a wider group. 

Things feel much tougher for our issues since Gleneagles than in 2005. World leaders are worrying more about an economic downturn, while the combination of food prices and climate change mean the cost of fighting poverty has basically gone up and even if rich countries were delivering on their promises, it probably wouldn’t be enough. Creative thinking needed all round in the months ahead.

One of my interviews was with Andy Bell for Five News. He’s blogging too. His cameraman had a bright idea about filming the interview with us in the background and a Japanese tea ceremony in the foreground. I think the ceremony was meant to show all these visitors a little slice of Japanese life. I’m slightly worried the tea ladies thought we were filmed for fifteen minutes discussing their tea. We did try it at the end though. It tasted sort of mineral-rich. OK, it tasted of metal.

At the end of the day the G8 all got to stand out under umbrellas and watch a dancing display that ended with fireworks. Silvio Berlusconi seemed to love it. George Bush was quite cheerful. The rest were pretty static. They need to be careful they don’t get mistaken for Daniel and the Dixieland Diggers.

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