This is the first in a regular series of letters, each covering two or three issues in the news locally, nationally & even internationally, that I intend to write over the next few months. Please feel free to comment back on them.
The charade of Devolution under the Tories
In England over the last 15 to 20 years, there has been moves by Westminster Governments of both Red & Blue inclination to appear to devolve power from the centre, not to elected & democratic local councils but to individuals such as Executive Mayors or Police & Crime Commissioners. Always the claim has been this is to make those with the added power more accountable to those that elected them but the reality is that, almost without exception, those elected (often on a very small turnout) are not being held to account by any one except Central Government, have total control in their area of competence and are not answerable to anyone locally.
Now, there are moves to impose directly elected mayors on larger areas such as South Yorkshire or Greater Nottingham with more powers than the currents local councils have but with less accountability than even the Mayor of London has (who, in theory answers to the Greater London Authority) as there will be no elected body that covers the same area that these “Super Mayors” will have responsibility for.
George Osborne & David Cameron are pushing this policy as hard as they can, tying the devolution of powers (and development budgets) from London to having an elected Mayor. Why you might ask. Why not allow the elected local councils to have a say, why not allow an elected council to control the devolved powers & development budgets? Could it be that they don’t trust the local voters to elected a “responsible” (i.e. compliant) council that will do as they are told? Could it be that they don’t want any form of elected opposition to question what an Executive Mayor does?
In reality, the move to Executive Mayors is part of a continuing process to remove all power from democratic local councils. It fits in with the “election” of PCCs, turning all schools into Academies (and taking them out of LEA control), moving more and more social housing into the housing association sector instead of being provided by local councils and the control over planning that the Government now has. Slowly but surely, our District, Borough & County Councils are being emasculated, left with all the responsibility for delivering the services but having none of the powers they need to do so.
The devolution planned by the Government will not change this with all the power in a region centralized into the hands on one person who will only be answerable to central Government, only having to face an election once every 4 years.
Should we bomb Syria?
Earlier this week, I wrote to my MP, John Mann, asking him to oppose any British involvement in the bombing of Syria in any vote in Parliament unless there was a plan for how to rebuild Syria. Here is the letter I wrote & Mr Mann’s response:
Dear Mr Mann,
It seem probable that in a few days time the British Government will be asking both Houses of Parliament to vote to allow RAF planes to join in the bombing of suspected Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria. As one of your constituents, can I ask you to vote against any such proposal.
The justification for this request seems to be that as IS was, apparently, behind the outrages in Paris on Friday 13th November, the UK should join the existing bombing campaign being ranged against IS in Syria by the USA, France and other countries. However, as this bombing campaign has been running for nearly a year already but IS were still able to mount the operation in Paris, it does not seem to me that the few extra RAF planes that any UK involvement would consist of could make any meaningful military contribution. To me it seems to more a case of the current Tory Government wanting to show the British people that they are doing something rather than having any real desire to make a significant effort to destroy IS but does run the significant risk of hitting civilian targets inflicting casualties & damage on those who are already the victims of IS
It should also be pointed out that by carrying out such “spectaculars” as the Paris attack, IS want the West to react by increasing the campaign in Syria so that they can portray themselves as “true Muslims” fighting against the Crusader forces trying to destroy Islam and use this in their propaganda to radicalise & recruit Muslims living in the West. By wanting to contribute the bombing campaign, the UK will be playing into this narrative.
To destroy IS in Syria & Iraq, a significant ground force will be needed to be deployed in area. This would need to be UN sanctioned and led by non-European forces, probably by the Arab league, and be tasked to root out IS and then enforce a cease fire between the different warring faction in Syria while political solution was hammered out. If the proposal was to support such a force with logistics, battle field intelligence as well as aerial cover, then, reluctantly, I would support UK involvement and ask you to do the same. However, this does not appear to be on the table at the moment and until it is, the UK would be better off not getting involved.
I hope that common sense will prevail and Parliament shows wisdom by not agreeing to get involved in what is a worse than pointless bombing campaign.
Mr Mann’s response was quick and encouraging:
Might be surprising to some, but I generally agree with your stance
Nothing that David Cameron has announced in the last few days has changed my mind & we will see how Mr Mann actually votes in the coming days when Cameron asks Parliament for approval for his military adventure.