Syria, having helped to cause the mess we turn our back on it

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-35150037

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

Seems the Syrian people are reaping the harvest that we helped to sow last century. At the same time our Government turns its back on those with nothing who are fleeing the war that we clearly had a big hand in starting. Makes you proud (not) to be British.

Taking mental health issues seriously? Jen Robertson’s guest posting

Looking at the news you’d be forgiven for assuming that the House of Commons debated nothing but Syria and terrorism recently, of course that’s not actually the case. One item I found of particular interest was the issue of out of area placements in mental health raised by Norman Lamb. Norman himself has a fantastic record of campaigning for mental health to be taken as seriously as physical health problems are, and indeed his work in this area was one of the things that led to my decision to vote for him in the leadership elections. The issue he raised was the horrific practice whereby those in need of mental health (sometimes including children) care are sometimes sent hundreds of miles away from their homes and families due to a lack of available facilities in their local area.

Norman was fantastic on the subject, as ever. I admit his rhetoric isn’t as good as Tim’s, he seems less likely to ever deliver a speech that could bring a room to it’s feet for his oratory rather than it’s content, but his tireless pursual of mental health issues is wonderful. It’s clear the issue means a lot to him and it is also clear that this is a man who does his research and is far more interested in seeking solutions than in placing blame, something sadly not common enough in politics.

Debate video and transcripts can be found here:

www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/ad0175ac-dbfd-419f-b04d-75da804110f4 (play from about 14:12pm)

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151203/debtext/151203-0003.htm (starts partway down the page, just look for Norman’s name)

What really struck me in this debate though was how sparsely it was attended. I was disappointed more of our own didn’t attend, only Norman, Mark Williams and Tom Brake were present, but attendance was even worse for all the other parties. There were a fair handful of Tories present and those that spoke on the issue did so well and respectfully, albeit very briefly, making relevant points and agreeing with Norman’s. The Labour benches (as you can see in this photo) were deserted.

index

So much for this:

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-creates-new-dedicated-minister-for-mental-health-in-his-shadow-cabinet-10500075.html

Mr Corbyn and his party have a funny way of demonstrating their interest in, and commitment to, mental heath issues. I understand this wasn’t a major debate but it IS an important issue and when you have 232 MPs it shouldn’t be that difficult to find at least one person willing to show up!

The other parties were as far as I can tell (as in I watched the whole debate and couldn’t see evidence of them anywhere unless they’d got lost and sat down amongst the Tories) all notably absent too. I admit to being unsure if the issue is a relevant one in Scotland – if not perhaps the SNP can be excused their non-attendance, but if that is not the case then I’d argue they too have quite enough MPs to find someone to attend! The same excuse might I suppose be offered for the Northern Ireland MPs, I don’t know if they are affected by this issue or not. For the smaller English parties I do understand that a limited number of MPs inevitably means you will not be able to have a presence in the House at all debates, but it does show that this doesn’t seem to have been deemed much of a priority for any of them. Perhaps epitomising perfectly the struggle mental health issues have to achieve parity of esteem and even notice amongst politicians and public alike.

The problem in the debate didn’t lie in any of what was being expressed in the chamber but the fact that more than 90% of it’s members had so little interest in it that they didn’t even show up. How will this important issue ever truly progress without greater support?

Syria – Jen Robertson writes a guest posting – So the main issue is Jeremy’s ratings!

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/labour-moderates-syria-vote-party-politics?CMP=fb_gu

This struck me as an interesting article – see link above to The Guardian web site. The man’s clearly got his own (Anti-Corbyn) agenda, but he points out very well how disgusting it is that people are making political hay over a decision like this.

Throughout this debate I kept hearing again and again ‘what will Syria do to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership?’ a hell of a lot more than I heard anything about what might happen to Syria itself or even the UK’s own security. Maybe if everyone spent more time on actual politics and less on internal Labour party politics everyone might have a better idea of what the hell’s going on in the world. Certainly it might at the very least help Labour look a bit better, as at present it simply no longer matters who amongst them is in the right because the conduct of both sides condemns them all.

The vile responses to those who voted in favour of bombing Syria are a good example of how whether you’re right or not rather ceases to matter when you behave in a reprehensible manner. People using terms like ‘final solution’ and using tactics involving intimidation and sexism are very much forfeiting any moral high ground they think they have.

There was a horribly telling tweet from Stella Creasy in which she wrote, in response to a tweet that appears to have since been deleted, ‘Am not sure what my fertility has to do with this debate but if you are Walthamstow resident come on Sunday?’. Unfortunately Stella I can you exactly what your fertility has to do with it (though I’m sure she already knows) you’re a woman, which means you will find that when you upset people they will hurl misogynistic abuse at you, especially a woman in your position who has dared to enter the political world dominated by men.

For the record I absolutely don’t like the way Stella, Tim, and far too many others voted but I’m afraid I find it hard to believe that people who hurl abuse are genuine proponents of peace. These issues seem sadly indicative of a politics that has forgotten what it’s there for, these are not supposed to be rival gangs simply craving power, these are the men and women who should be working to better all of our lives. Shall we talk about the impact the vote will have on Syria, on international security, on the refugee crisis? Nah, Jeremy Corbyn’s career is clearly more interesting and if we’re lucky there’ll be an MP out there we can criticise for wearing the wrong skirt or not being a mother. And we wonder why people seem disaffected.

Syria – Lord Tony Greaves has his say

Below are the views of Lib Dem Lord Tony Greaves – I agree with him entirely.

Tony Greaves

My Lords, if we had the Motion in front of us to vote on tonight I would vote against it. In doing so, I would be voting for the views of the majority of members of my party. Last night, when the Liberal Democrat MPs said they were going to support the Government, with various caveats, a ripple of surprise and shock went through the party. Some of us spent a great deal of time last night talking to people who were angry and felt they had been let down by our MPs.

British bombing will have little effect in practice. On its own it will not make any real difference. In that and many other respects I associate myself with the remarks that have just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. The danger of ‘mission creep’ is a real problem.

The main impact of the Government’s Motion, this debate and the debate in the past few days has not been on international politics but on British politics. I have tried to understand why the Government have brought this forward at this time but I find it difficult to do so. My noble friend Lord Taverne may have some ideas.

Last week, the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron, as leader, stated five conditions for supporting the Government today. He wrote to members of the party and said:

“We are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response”.

He referred to five conditions. I emphasise the word “conditions”. The first was legal and I do not want to say anything more than my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford has said because he is an expert on these matters and I am not. The second was a wider diplomatic framework,

“including efforts towards a no-bomb zone to protect civilians.”

I see no evidence that there has been any progress on that.

The third was the United Kingdom to lead—I underline the word “lead”—a concerted international effort to put pressure on Gulf states, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, to stop the funding of jihadi groups and to do much more to assist in the effort to defeat ISIL, establish peace in Syria and help with the refugee situation. It was added:

“They are currently doing very little”.

I think that was a reference to the Government. I see no progress whatever on that or any commitments given. The fifth was domestic. Among other things he said:

“We call on the Government to step up its acceptance of Syrian refugees, and opt in to Save the Children’s proposal to re-home 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from within Europe”.

The chances of this Government agreeing to that are close to zero. If I am wrong, I will hold my hand up and praise them to the heavens.

We are also told that things have changed because the Vienna talks are taking place and that this means there will be co-ordinated international action, a plan for the future, plans for the regeneration of Syria, rebuilding and so on. That seems to be an argument for waiting until that is in place before taking the kind of action now being proposed.

I do not believe that what is being put forward by the Government will work. In three or four or six months’ time we will be debating this issue again and people will want to do more. There is an old maxim: if you are in doubt about things and not completely convinced, first do no harm. Bombing at this time in Syria and Raqqa will do more harm than good.

With thanks to Tony Dawson for the lead to this posting

Syria – I am on a different page to the majority of MP’s

Looking at the complicated situation in Syria I can’t for the life of me see how the RAF dropping more bombs on it will do any good. Indeed, it will probably do more harm as innocent people will die as a consequence.

Sadly it seems that I am branded as a terrorist sympathiser (as is everyone else who opposes the bombing), by David Cameron, as I am highly sceptical of his plan and support those MP’s who oppose him. He has probably succeeded in gravely insulting a third or more of the British people by his crass and child-like remark in my opinion.

I am no pacifist yet I can’t support what seems to be a muddle-headed plan with little or no clear and potentially achievable military objective.

I am no socialist but the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, who is a pacifist, has been appalling. How can you hate a man who promotes peace?

I know that the terrorists need to be confronted and defeated but please put a credible plan before us that stands a chance of achieving such a noble aim.

And as for Tim Farron, does he know something that the rest of his party, outside of the MP’s, do not? For all the world I would have expected Tim to have taken a similar position to that of the late great Charles Kennedy who stood against the Iraq war when no other political leader would do so.

The vote tonight will be not be a victory for anyone but it could well escalate tensions in the Middle East, ensure that innocent civilians are killed and it might even help the terrorists recruit more of their kind.

Oh, and don’t forget, the risks that our brave RAF crews will be running as we sit back and watch the unfolding story on our TV screens. They are already running those risks in Iraq of course.