The Bill to trigger Article 50 and start the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is currently being debated in Parliament. On Tuesday, Bedford MP, Richard Fuller spoke in the debate, outlining his views about Brexit.
Thank you to those who have contacted me about military action in Syria. I have received a great many communications from people across Bedford and Kempston about this issue and I appreciate every individual taking the time to share their views on the subject.
I also thank those who were able to attend the public meeting I held at St Cuthbert’s Hall on Sunday 29th November. There was a considerable range of views expressed at that meeting and all views were heard respectfully and thoughtfully – a credit to our town. The mood of that meeting was summed up well by local resident, Kate Allen who said “if the government decides to extend bombing then we, the people of Bedford, because of harmony and diversity have a special opportunity to “lean in” and show ISIS that nothing can divide us. We can be a model of holding the complexity and tensions in unity.”
As you will be aware, Parliament was asked on Wednesday to vote to extend authorisation for RAF airstrikes against ISIS/Daesh in Iraq to include strikes in Syria.
I supported the motion and I would like to outline my thoughts on the issue.
“Don’t let Da’esh divide us” was the call from Richard Fuller’s public meeting held on Sunday at St Cuthbert’s Hall which posed the question: “Syria. Terrorism. What should be the UK government’s response?”
Addressing an audience of over 80 local residents, Richard laid out a range of facts on the situation in Syria – military actions, diplomatic efforts, humanitarian support and atrocities by Da’esh – before opening the floor to comments and questions.
Many residents voiced concern at the use of violence – including bombing by the UK – but all acknowledged how complex the issues were facing the Syrian people.
Domestic security issues also featured with Kathryn Holloway amongst those calling on Richard to ensure Bedfordshire police had adequate counter terrorism resources to keep us safe.
Contributions included those from local residents who had special knowledge of the region from diplomatic, military or humanitarian service in the region. Richard said it was an honour to represent such a special town that could bring together people with such wide and personal experiences of Syria and with such compassionately held views.
On Friday, Bedford MP, Richard Fuller joined the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on a visit to Bedford cemetery to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
Richard visited the Commonwealth War Graves at Bedford’s Foster Hill Road cemetery and at St Mary’s Church in Goldington and was told some of the stories of those who died by CWGC Regional Supervisor, Alan Dracup.
The visit was part of a series of events organised by the CWGC to encourage people to visit their local Commonwealth War Graves and to learn more about the impact of the Great War.
Deirdre Mills, CWGC’s Director for the UK Area explained that:
“The Centenary is an opportune time for us to re-engage and connect with local communities and young people, and explain how the people who are buried in our graves got to be there, who they were, and where they were from. More than 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women are commemorated in the UK. Many died in military hospitals whilst being treated for their wounds or fell victim to the flu pandemic as the conflict drew to a close. Their graves reflect both the local impact of the war but also its wider historical significance.”
CWGC has launched an online Virtual Cemetery education portal that provides schools and teachers with a comprehensive range of resources and support materials linked to the graves and memorials in their home town. The virtual cemetery website www.cwgc-virtual-cemetery.org is an interactive tool which enables pupils and teachers to view images and videos, learn more about CWGC’s work across the globe, and – most importantly – the people that are commemorated in its cemeteries and memorials.
The House of Commons debate on Syria and the use of chemical weapons should have been about healing some of the damage done to the level of trust on these issues between our people and our government by the Iraq War. Indeed, I believe that was the part of the intent behind the Prime Minister’s decision to recall Parliament.
In the end, rather than rebuilding trust, the result has been to question that trust further and to create an unsustainable basis for future decision making on military action by the United Kingdom. More pressingly, the next time that Mr Assad decides to use chemical weapons on women and children, the United Kingdom will, effectively, sit on our hands and do nothing.
Is that really the outcome we wanted? How did we end up in this situation?
Many people in Bedford and Kempston, like many other people across the United Kingdom are weary of British military involvement in foreign conflicts. They see the expense – in terms of lives lost and money spent and, though never doubting the bravery of our armed services, they doubt the wisdom of our involvement. Even more seriously, a sense of deceit over the justification for the Iraq War has left people deeply sceptical of much of the substance of any decision about military engagement: the quality and veracity of intelligence; the intentions of our allies; and the assessment of our top military commanders about the consequences of any “initial” action.
Such scepticism, in the circumstances of recent history, is understandable and even laudable to an extent. However, it does not provide a secure basis, or a better alternative, for decision making on issues of conflict than properly managed executive leadership. Why?