How one thing can change everything: The Paris attacks and Syria Strikes

An F-16 Falcon being refueled after an airstrike on ISIL targets in Syria

The House of Commons voted against airstrikes in Syria in 2013.

However, here we are in November 2015; and the same question is being asked.

Well, what has changed? Now some of you are sighing here, because unless you’ve been living under a rock in deepest Timbuktu – you know what has changed. One hundred and thirty people were killed in Paris on a Friday night in a terrible terrorist attack.

There are parallels between the city of Paris and London. They are both modern Western cities, they are both multicultural and they are both dealing with the fact that IS (Daesh) propaganda is inspiring ‘homegrown’ terrorists.

So, it is unsurprising that we are asking this question again. It is right that we consider the best way to protect ourselves.

But I will ask again, what has really changed?

In reality, British presence on Syrian soil is not an entirely new concept. In July 2015, it emerged that British pilots took part in airstrikes on Syria after a Freedom of Information Request from human rights group Reprieve.

This information confused some politicians, especially Conservative MP John Baron, who is also a member of the foreign affairs select committee. On BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme he said:

Let’s be absolutely clear about this. We voted in 2013, when parliament had been recalled from recess, that there should be no British military intervention in Syria. We were told that No 10 had got the message and that any future intervention would be subject to a vote.

Here we are learning that we have British military personnel engaged in airstrikes, so I hope the government takes the earliest opportunity to come to parliament and explain its position because I think a number of colleagues will ask questions.”

Just as in 2013, there are now still politicians from different parties who are not sure about airstrikes in Syria.

David Cameron is not one of those politicians. The prime minister has long been convinced that Britain should be involved in airstrikes on Syria.

Speaking to US television network NBC during a trip to America in July, he said:

But be in no doubt we are committed to working with you to destroy the caliphate in both countries [Iraq and Syria]

In July 2015, he authorised a drone attack in Syria, which killed jihadists Reyaad Khan from Cardiff and Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen. This was the first use of British assets to conduct a strike in a country where it is not at war in modern times.

Moreover, he has made defence spending a priority, especially drones and counter-terrorist facilities.

According to an article by the Telegraph, Cameron now has enough political support for airstrikes in Syria. 

Did the horrific tragedy in Paris this November change everything? Or did it allow the powers that be to make us think that everything has changed.

The truth is that I don’t know – what do you think?

Vote in the poll, and join the conversation in the comments below.

How Britain Is leaving The Most Vulnerable Children behind

Due to events this week; I’ve been thinking about how we protect the most vulnerable in our society; particularly the poorest and most deprived children and young people. Those on the margins, the ones who are conveniently forgotten or remembered to suit political motives and agendas. To cater to the national mood.

Collectively, I think we can agree that we have failed to protect them in the past. Allegations that former British prime minister Ted Heath and other Westminster officials were involved in a child sex abuse ring, as well as evidence that Jimmy Saville was guilty of shocking crimes show the terrible consequences of our indifference to those who need the most attention. My use of the term, ‘our’ isn’t accidental here, because whilst these men are undoubtedly guilty, so are the people who made up the walls of silence around them.

However, what really disturbs me presently is the fact that this nonchalance towards the weakest isn’t outdated. During my short eighteen years of life, I have watched the floppy disk fade into insignificance. I have seen the video disappear in the dawn of the DVD. But our indifference to children on the outskirts remains, an unwelcome hangover from the Victorian era.

Maybe you think I’m being dramatic.

‘Where?’ you ask me.

‘How?’

First, let us talk about Kids Company. It has ceased operations since 7pm today after 19 years of helping some of the forgotten I am talking about. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusions that the charity was perfect. The article in The Spectator ensured that. But the 6,000 children now left in the lurch due to the charity’s closure is testament to the charity’s good work. If it was in need of reform, the government or charities’ commission could have intervened to bring about change. Instead, when the organisation became a political pariah, Cameron- despite previously praising Camila Batmanghelidjh’s work left it in the cold. And the many children it helped. As is increasingly the case these days, I cannot say the left has done much differently. Harriet Harman’s support of Camila was feeble at best – ‘The Government should work with Camilla Batmanghelidjh who is the founder and inspirational leader’ she said. In other words, ‘It’s sad. But it’s all the Tories’ fault and I’m not going to do anything about it’.

The closure of a play called Homegrown, developed through The National Youth Theatre  which hoped to explore how young people are radicalised ten days before opening, in many ways epitomises our hastiness to silence the children that don’t quite fit into our ideal image. The 112 young people aged from 15-25 whom, it is reported were mostly from ethnic minority backgrounds have now lost a platform to express the truths of their reality. In a nation where the 1968 Theatres Act abolished censorship of the stage, the news is as unprecedented as it is disappointing.

Today, it seems that the message from society for children who live in the ‘wrong’ areas, or have the ‘wrong’ religion and rely desperately on ‘wrong’ charities is clear.

Your stories, your survival and your safety means nothing to us at all.

A Letter To The Chancellor Of the Exchequer

This is my letter to George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer who recently produced the 2015 budget, which was supposed to help hardworking people, but will in fact probably make life more difficult for them. 

Dear Mr George Osborne,

I am writing to inform you of the intense disgust and disappointment I feel about the budget you have released. First of all as a young person, although I suspect you don’t care, and secondly as one of those hardworking people that you pretend to represent.

Firstly, I want to ask you how you feel you can claim to represent hardworking people after cutting maintenance grants? They help students from the poorest backgrounds who are determined to better themselves, despite the fact that social mobility barely exists in this country. These kind of students often depend on these grants AS WELL AS part time jobs to support themselves through higher education. They are not lazy. They are not scroungers. They are some of my close friends. It is ironic that as someone obsessed with cutting deficits, you will now be responsible for increasing the debts of countless young graduates.

In the same vein, how do you expect young people who do not go to university to survive if their parents cannot support them? Housing benefit is cut for 18-21 year olds. New, minimum wage increases do not apply to them until they are 25. Also, there is no increase in apprenticeship wages despite the apprenticeship levy. According to a Centrepoint study from Cambridge University, around 80,000 are already homeless. Undoubtedly, the number will rise. I am intrigued, did you consider this, and decide it didn’t matter, or was it plain ignorance that led you to these decisions?

What is more puzzling is the way your budget does not only penalize young people, but those who work incredibly hard in the public sector. I’d like you to read the previous sentence again. they work hard. How do you think freezing their pay rise to 1% supports them? These people: teachers, nurses doctors and social workers will come under increasing pressure as the effects of your budget come to punish the poorest in our nation over the coming years. They will work harder, and you will make their lives more difficult.

Yet, all of this is not the worst of it. The worst of it is your decision to penalize children for being born. I suppose that is why it is necessary to redefine child poverty. So that the plights of those children goes unnoticed? All this in a climate of food bank dependence which shames any notion of fairness or equality. For women who have a third child as a result of rape, they will be forced to prove it, in order to claim child tax credits – as if they hadn’t suffered enough already.

I could continue. I could talk about how this budget will diminish the housing stock. I could discuss how sick and tired I am of hearing about how you will crack down on tax evasion, except of course when it would affect your family. I could exhort you to understand that those who rely on benefits should be supported into work, not shamed into further deprivation.

But I fear the hopelessness is setting in. This budget reflects that you do not care, and I doubt homelessness, desperation or child poverty will lead you to feel otherwise. The outrage that I feel cannot be expressed in words. The pain that you will cause cannot be counted in numbers.

Thus I will conclude here, though the effects of this appalling budget will not.

Yours sincerely,

One disillusioned, hardworking person among many