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Tories and the theatre

Hello everyone,

I am a writer for an online cultural/reviews magazine called ‘The Upcoming’ and on Friday I went to review a piece of experimental theatre called ‘Cock and Bull’. The show was a mixture of performance art, dance, and avant-garde theatre and it centred around the election, politicians and the words they say. The show was originally created in 2015 for the election and I really wish I had seen it then because the three identically clad gold handed Etonian performers were really channelling David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg (particularly David Cameron). This time around you can’t really say that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look alike, say the same things or really have much at all in common with each other.

If you hate the tories, you like experimental theatre and you want to commiserate about broken political promises see if you can get a ticket to the FINAL performance this evening!

Take a look at my review here: http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2017/04/28/cock-and-bull-at-the-southbank-centre-theatre-review/ 

 

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Why America Should Legalise drugs (non-stoner reasons).

https://mcxv.com/real-reason-drugs-legalised-america-no-dont-just-want-get-high/ 

Happy belated 420 everyone.

I just wrote an article about why America should legalise drugs. Most of the reasons people tend to come up with is a person’s rights over their own body, the ridiculousness of criminalising something that only ‘harms’ yourself, and the relative safety regarding certain illegal substances (like marijuana) as opposed to legal substances (like alcohol).

These are all very true, but I thought I would try and get away from the personal reasons and focus on how legalising drugs could have huge positive ramifications on America’s messed up prison system, disproportionate representation of African Americans in American prisons, the fact that the punishment often does not fit the crime, how legalising drugs could help with overcrowding, how many Americans are actually in jail because of drug-related offences etc.

I am not from America. I should also admit that I have not been to America so a lot of my information comes from articles, statistics and Orange Is The New Black. If anyone is from the states and/or knows about the prison system and has any comments on my article or the issues relating to drugs, racism, prisons and crime please let me know!

Check out my article by clicking here or going to https://mcxv.com/real-reason-drugs-legalised-america-no-dont-just-want-get-high/ 

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Tuesday morning update

I have two announcements to make this fine Tuesday morning.

    1. Take a look at my published article on why we need more video campaigns for male domestic abuse victims
    2. I’m doing book reviews now! Take a look at my new and shiny book review website, and if you are an author or looking for new books to read this summer click on the ‘book club’ banner for lists of cheap books and the opportunity to list your own book and gain a wider audience.

For more information on Alter Ego by Tory Allyn (the book I’m currently reviewing) check out it’s Amazon listing here.

I’ve been quite busy writing about weird topics for minimal pay (latest includes sewing machine sergers, karaoke machines, and milk frothers) but I promise to update again soon with a longer and very exciting post.

Book Club Reading List

Cheap eBooks

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Cheap Kindle Books

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Jeremy Corbyn

Click for my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

I have long felt that the Labour party is suffering an identity crisis. The old Labour movement, the movement of Atlee, the NHS, and the welfare system was abandoned in favour of Tony Blair’s centrist movement, but that doesn’t appear to be working either. Jeremy Corbyn offers a return to old Labour, to the values Labour used to represent. Perhaps those values don’t have a place in this country anymore, perhaps the working class has changed too much.

Perhaps society has changed too much. If this is the case, and Labour cannot go back to its roots but it can’t re-imagine itself as anything more inspiring than a second rate Tory party whose main policy is seemingly slightly ‘nicer’ than the Tories, then perhaps it’s time for something new. Perhaps Labour should split, if that is how things are going. All I know is that we need differences of opinion in parliament, we need parties that differ enough that people feel that they have a choice. We need parties that represent people, that give them a voice. Parties people will support. And if Labour can’t be what it used to be but doesn’t have a good enough alternative, then something needs to change.

Corbyn has the support of a lot of people because they don’t see him as part of the establishment, because they see how much the media and the MP’s hate him. And this increases his popularity because he seems different. He’s an underdog. He shares people’s values, and that scares the establishment. He seems nice. He would rather hang out with and support local, ordinary people, then bother with the rituals and ceremonies required of politicians. Perhaps this isn’t a good enough reason to support him, but if enough people feel this way then they deserve to be heard, and if enough people want him in power he should stay.

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An update on my life, and a rant about Jeremy Corbyn

Read my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

Me

I’ve been neglecting my poor blog.

Things have been quite busy. I’m trying to work as a freelance writer, which basically involves sending pitches and searching the internet for writing opportunities for hours and perhaps actually getting something once or twice a week. It started slow, but I’m feeling optimistic about it. I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other

I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other hand I’m getting paid to write. It’s ghostwriting for a tech company, so I have to rewrite and research these tech topics like virtual assistants for android phones and then write a load of words on them. It’s quite fun, I’m learning a lot of trivia and I’ve discovered some really addictive phone games.

I’ve also found a few other jobs along the way, including a job which literally paid me $100 me to record myself saying phrases. I think they were testing for a Google app, as I had to repeat the word “Google” so many times it stopped sounding real. It did get a bit repetitive, but realistically making $100 dollars by lying in bed and talking is pretty much the best thing ever.

Getting paid for journalism, opinions and analysis is pretty hard, especially for newbies, and as that’s what I really want to do it kind of sucks. I’ve written a fair few articles which, whilst they weren’t paid for, did manage to end up on a legit website and reach a reasonably large number of people, so that was pretty cool. I have written an article for this website, and please forgive me for being a shameless promoter but please click and read it.

Jeremy Corbyn

The article is my attempt to levy the playing field for Jeremy Corbyn by writing something nice about him. I should probably clarify, as he goes against a lot of what I write about, that I don’t actually want him to run the country, and I don’t agree with a lot of his policies.

But I am fascinated by him. For a man like him, a genuine, scruffy do-gooder of a man who would rather hang out with local people and go to his constituents citizenship ceremonies then pander to the press and attend all the official occassions … he really is something different. Whether you agree with him or not, don’t you get tired of politicians saying the same things, politicians who don’t seem to have anything to do with you?
So many people are disillusioned with politics and can’t be bothered to vote in elections because they don’t agree with the leading parties. Because they don’t feel that they represent their views. Sure some people are just lazy, or uninformed or simply don’t care, but there are a lot of people who don’t want to give their support to a candidate they don’t trust. This is at least partly why so many young people don’t tend to engage in politics, because politics has made them apathetic.

Why I like Jeremy Corbyn

And I’m personally interested in seeing Jeremy remain in parliament, not because I think he’s right, but because I think he represents the people who don’t normally get representation, and the leading party should have some decent kind of opposition even if he is a bit mad. Some say that he is incompetent, that he has crazy ideas and he abandoned England to Brexit whilst he went on a sunny holiday, and at least some of these are things are probably true. But it does appear that people really can never be satisfied.

So many people complained that the Remain campaign was pushing itself down people’s throats, that David Cameron spent tax payers money on leaflets. Some people got so sick of the constant warnings and threats that some of them voted to leave just out of spite. So how is it that the one person who didn’t do that, who didn’t make wild claims and belittled the people by giving them threats rather than actual facts, how is he suddenly the evil villain of the story?

A few newspapers have discussed this and shown that  more Labour members actually voted to remain than the Conservative party, and those that voted to leave did so because of reasons that had nothing at all to do with Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, he could have done a better job, and yes he didn’t seem that into it. Realistically, he probably wasn’t. You can’t really have his opinions and be totally in favour of the E.U. Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

But he did campaign to remain, just not enough. People saw him giving talks on workers rights within the E.U and why we should have stayed in to reform it. He didn’t do it as well as he should have done, but he did so it and  we can’t know how much he actually did do because no one reported it.

I want him to remain, at least for a while longer, because I think it’s interesting to see a real difference of opinion in parliament and displayed across social media, even if it’s an opinion I don’t agree with. I want to see the parties represent different things, so people actually do have a choice. And perhaps Jeremy’s old labour socialism thing just isn’t popular enough with the majority of people, perhaps Labour itself no longer works because the world has changed and it no longer has a place in it.

The Labour Party

Perhaps if old labour can’t work anymore it’s a sign, because we don’t need a party which bases half its support on the fact it seems a bit ‘nicer’ than the Tories. I am sure there are people who really love the Labour party and believe in what it stands for today, but I don’t come across these people very often. ‘New Labour’ doesn’t seem to have the same appeal it used to, and if Labour goes back to it’s ‘Tory-lite’ image it could be years before they are re-elected.

I just feel the Labour party spends so much time saying “look, we’re not the Torie’s and you hate the Tories so you must like us”, without giving us enough of a reason to like them. I don’t feel the majority of them, including Jeremy’s contester, know what they stand for, just that it’s not the same things as Jeremy Corbyn. We need them to say what they are, not what they are not, and if they don’t know they had better start thinking. There are some things they have to agree with, because there is no way to change them. Perhaps there isn’t a good enough alternative to the tories because they actually have it all right and there is no other way, but I’m not convinced.

Maybe it’s time for a new party or several new parties. Maybe we’ll see the rise of a (real) liberal party, perhaps the greens will take over, who really knows. We would (and should)  change the electoral system, which that would involve a lot of headache and paperwork, but there are other options beyond out current brand of politics. It’s not crazy to suggest we may need to think about them at some point.

I don’t know what will happen, but I have an inkling that something has to change. Maybe Jeremy isn’t the right kind of change, but he shows that it is possible for non-Etonian champaign socialists/strict Tories to get into positions of power and at the very least, we can hope he will inspire other people to try and do the same.

 

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The dark side of Australia’s history

Slightly darker reflections on Australia posted on my travel blog.

theflyingvegetarian

I’m staying in a place with a TV! Not wifi mind you, but a TV which has around 20 ever repeating  channels. I hadn’t seen any TV programmes since being here until the day before yesterday, and whilst it’s been nice for the evenings I miss Netflix and the internet like hell. When did TV get so terrible? When they realised no one watches it anymore? Who knows.

Anyway, last night I did see a good programme. It was a televised debate on ‘whether racism is destroying the Australian dream’, and as an English person who doesn’t know a lot about how it is here, it was really interesting. We have similar debates, although with different wording, in the UK.

I’ve always kind of assumed Australia was a pretty racist place. I guess coming from London, which is thankfully quite diverse and mostly cohesive, and the fact that when I’ve…

View original post 811 more words

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The tragic case of Dylan Seabridge and why home education is not the problem

In 2011 an eight year old boy named Dylan Seabridge died of scurvy. This was undoubtedly a tragic and utterly preventable death which was caused by this child’s parents failing to feed him properly and then misunderstanding his condition as ‘growing pains’, something they continued to maintain even after the child’s death and post-mortem exam. Even though this happened over four years ago, the story appears to have re-emerged last week and most of the coverage is now centered on the fact that the eight year old boy was home educated. This has raised concerns with some people, who say there should be stronger measures taken that would give the authorities more power over  home schooled children, with all home educated children being listed on a ‘register’, presumably with the occasional compulsory check up.

A lot of sources are reporting that the child was ‘invisible’ to the authorities because the child was home educated, even though it has recently come out that the child was known to the authorities for a year before he died. Concerns were raised by two people, a teacher and a lawyer and the education officials visited Dylans home, but were turned away by the parents. Apparently there were no further attempts to see the child. According to some of the press coverage, as the child was home educated under ‘current law’ they had no legal right to demand to see the child, and therefore he ‘slipped under the radar’ and they could take no further action.

As far as I understand, parents are not legally required to have regular check ups with the social services or education offices, and they can refuse to allow the education officers to see their child (as these parents in question did). However, the education authorities do have the power to take things further if they decide to do so.
According to http://edyourself.org/ , a website which offers legal advice and information to home educators: “Under paragraph 3.16 of the Government Guidelines, it states that “if it appears to a local authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education it may wish to contact the parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. Contact should normally be made in writing to the parents to request further information. A written report should be made after such contact…stating whether the authority has any concerns about the education provision and specifying what these are…
Paragraph 3.16 of the Guidelines goes on to say that if a local authority considers that a suitable education is not being provided and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to address the identified concerns and report back to the authority have not done so, the authority should consider sending a formal notice under section 437 before moving on if needed, to the issuing of a School Attendance Order.” Paragraph 3.5 – which only applies after it seems there may be a problem, and not from the outset – does not say that the authority “must”contact parents or even that it “should”, rather that it “may wish” to do so.
The concerns were voiced by a lawyer and a head teacher, who were worried because Dylans mother was mentally ill and as the child was home educated they were presumably unsure she could provide a suitable education for her child. The information above shows that whilst the local authorities did not have to pursue the matter, if they were concerned about the child’s education and the parents were not able to provide assurance, they could have gone on to issue a formal notice and if necessary involve the social services. I personally don’t believe that would have saved the child’s life, but they did have that power if they had chosen to use it. To say they had no further power because the parents refused to let them see their child is wrong. They did not have the obligation to take it further, but they did have the option to do so. http://edyourself.org/ also has another section of interest to this case. According to them: “4.7 The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. Working Together to Safeguard Children states that all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.  Government’s Home Education Guidelines

The education officers have to give you a notice and give you some time to prove you are providing a satisfactory education, and if you do not then they can refer you to the social services. As far as I am aware, if the social services were concerned about child abuse (which would include neglect) they had the power to take the same actions they would with a child who attended school. The social services don’t seem to have been directly involved with this case, perhaps because the education authorities decided there was no cause for further concern, but if they had been they would have had the power to take further action if they deemed it necessary.
The idea this child was ‘invisible to the authorities’ is clearly untrue as the authorities visited his house and therefore clearly knew he existed and were, at least momentarily, concerned for his welfare. The idea they had no power to take action as he was home schooled is  incorrect, because as the information above shows it was within their power to take further action if they had decided to do so. They did not have the obligation to do so, but if they had been unduly concerned they had the option to issue the parents with a notice and, if they did not receive a satisfactory response, get the social services involved. This was within their power, but they did not choose to take to exercise it.

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the social services in resent years, with cases like Baby P highlighting the clear failure of the social services to save a child’s life where they had the opportunities to do so and real cause for concern. Now, I don’t think any of us who do not work in the social services sector can fully appreciate how hard it must be to investigate these cases, and to toe the right line between taking enough action and not unduly interfering in a family’s life, both of which can cause a backlash if done incorrectly. There is an uproar if they fail to see the danger a child was in in time, and rightly so, but there would also be an uproar if they tore a family apart without adequate evidence that it was necessary. These are human people, and the ultimate fault must still lie with those directly responsible for the abuse i.e the parents/carers.
I do not feel that home education is really the issue here. There have been documented cases of children who went to school who were obviously being abused, which was either missed by the school or reported by the school and yet still was not adequately dealt with. The terrible case of Daniel Pelka comes to mind, as this child was also described as being ‘invisible’ to the professionals despite the fact he attended school. This child was starved and beaten at his home, became severely underweight and died as a result in March 2012.  It has been reported that the child arrived at school with visible bruises and was seen scavenging for food; a teaching assistant described him as a ‘bag of bones’. This was another tragic and preventable death, and it was said that because English was not the child’s first language (he was Polish), he lacked the ability to speak up about his treatment and his parents may have used it as an excuse not to cooporate.
I would not blame the school for this, as it appears teachers did report it. However, I would say that this case weakens the assumption that if Dylan Seabridge had gone to school it would have made a difference in the tragic outcome of his death. Scurvy is, as far as I am aware, not immediately noticeable or easily identifiable by a non medical professional. If he had attended school there may have been concerns about his welfare, but I am not sure the school would have been able to identify what was wrong. They may have alerted social services, but this does not mean adequate action would have been taken.

The parents are still have been intimately responsible for the child’s welfare regardless of his education. The sad and horrible fact is that some parents do terrible things, whether it be neglect their child, not feed them a healthy diet, or even physically abuse and starve them. Child abuse is a real concern for our communities and authorities, and I agree there should be an over-view of how social services treat different cases and that they are fully aware of the powers they have and what action to take in which instance, although clearly it is not a simple issue with a one answer fits all solution. What I would say though is that home education is not the cause for concern, and it is not to blame here. The authorities appear to already have authorization to take action against home educating parents if they believe the child is being abused or not receiving a satisfactory education. I would maybe suggest that rather than leave it to the authorities discretion,  if they have valid cause for concern that the child is not being educated and/or is being abused they would be required to take further action rather than simply have the option to do so, but that would require a change in wording and a requirement that they use the powers they already have, not a change in the law.  If they are concerned, they already have the power to take action. Registering all home educated children on a database would not change the rights that the authorities already have, but it may be a stepping stone to allowing more state interference in the education side of home education.

I think the basic concern lies in the idea that home educated children could be ‘locked up’ from the outside world and have no interactions with people outside of their family and thus it may be easier to abuse them as no one would ever hear about it, but in reality this isn’t what happens, nor was it the case here. Dylan’s parents were known to several people who reported their concerns, so clearly they were not unknown to anyone outside of their family.  The vast, vast majority of home schooling families go outside regularly; to museums, art galleries, parks, home educating events and clubs, friends houses, historic buildings etc. There is a vast and active home educating community all over the world, it is not a collection of anti social individuals who never go outside. You may say that a compulsory register could help save the few home educated children who may have abusive parents, and should not affect the majority of families who home educate to the best of their ability and do not neglect their children, but the fact is that there is a genuine cause for concern which has nothing to do with abuse. If being registered means the authorities can come and inspect your ‘progress’ on a regular basis, parents may be concerned that this would allow the authorities to dictate how their children are to be taught, and popular methods like autonomous home education may not be deemed ‘appropriate’ as there is not a universal way to test it, even though it can and does work well for many children. As the authorities already have the power to tackle abuse, I see no reason to put extra measures onto home education in itself, or to say that home education is in itself to blame. These parents are to blame, the authorities who did not take action and then tried to cover it up by saying the child was un-known to them (even though it has since come out that he was) are partly to blame as well. But the majority of responsible home educating parents are not to blame. I hope the full report sheds further light on all that happened in this tragic case, and I hope the powers that be use their common sense and look into this case properly before taking any measures that could harm the innocent and do nothing to help children who are actually at risk.

Further reading:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/12114339/Social-services-warned-about-boys-health-a-year-before-he-died-of-scurvy.html

http://www.cps.gov.uk/wales/news_and_views/dylan_seabridge_death__charges_against_glynn_and_julie_seabridge_dropped/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-24106823

http://edyourself.org/articles/socialservices.php

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/22/concerns-raised-about-boy-who-died-of-scurvy-a-year-before-his-death-leaked-report

http://edyourself.org/articles/FAQ.php

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/dylan-seabridge-concerns-raised-welfare-7222922

http://educationalfreedom.org.uk/information/social-services/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3410742/Concerns-raised-boy-s-welfare-year-died-scurvy-aged-eight.html

http://www.vaccineriskawareness.com/Home-Education-And-Your-Legal-Rights

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24107377

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24107377

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/22/concerns-raised-about-boy-who-died-of-scurvy-a-year-before-his-death-leaked-report

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-23349527

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Donald Trump and the banning debate

A section of British MPs have debated whether the controversial republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has caused worldwide outrage for his comments regarding Muslims including the call for Muslims to be banned from the US, should be banned from visiting the UK. This is a result of an online partition calling for Trump to be banned from the UK which currently has 576, 447 signatures SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh claimed that the ban could be justified on ground of ‘religious harmony’, but others have said that the ban could actually create more support for Trump because it may give him ‘martyr’ status, and even those who would usually abhor his claims would support his right to free speech.

I do not think Trump should be banned from the UK. This is not because I agree with Trump; frankly I still can’t quite believe the guy exists, let alone that anyone would consider letting him run a country. However, the worst thing you can do with a bigot like this is deny them their right to speak. If you do this it gives them ammunition. It gives someone whose views are normally ridiculous a genuinely valid argument, because we are denying them the free speech we often fight so hard to protect. And we would also be denying ourselves a golden opportunity to ridicule this man and show his ideas for what they are.
We should not ban him, rather we should try and set up a televised talk with a live audience and panel who would be given the opportunity to challenge Trump, to put him on the spot and to make him squirm. I remember years ago the UK wanted to stop Nick Griffin participated in a BBC debate. The debate went ahead anyway, and Nick Griffin was put on the spot and he showed himself for what he was, which gave him opponents even more ammunition to criticize and challenge his views.
This is precisely what we need to do with Trump. Rather then deny him free speech, we should use free speech against him. Clearly no matter what we do we won’t change his or his more hardcore supporters beliefs, but we can try to trip him up on his logic enough that maybe the more intelligent potential supporters will question him. This is not guaranteed, but it can’t hurt. We shouldn’t be scared of these people, we should show that rather then just try to hide from them and pretend they don’t exist we can and we should challenge them, not just from behind a keyboard but in real life. The call to ban him was a valid form of protest, and is good because it shows that a large number of UK citizens disagree venomously with his assertions, but we need to go beyond that. We can’t just say we disagree because we don’t like what he says, we need to take that and then show why  what he says is wrong. To simply disagree isn’t enough, we need to engage with these kind of views in so much that we can break them apart, ridicule them and prove them wrong. That is the only way we can even hope of defeating someone like that.

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Thoughts on Syria

This has been a pretty intense week. After a ten and a half hour debate in the house of commons on Wednesday the UK government voted in favour of extending air strikes to Syria and contributing to a bombing coalition with the US and France in that country. After the decision was broadcast, a lot of people took to social media to voice their opinions. I have personally seen far more comments against the motion than I have for, but it would be wrong to say that public opinion is unanimously or extremely against the strikes. Public opinion is never unanimous, and not everyone takes to social media to voice their opinions. There are a lot of arguments on both sides, and both are right in parts and wrong in others.
The idea that military action should never be an option is frankly un-realistic, and some people seem to have bought into the hype surrounding this vote and decided that it means the UK will personally start dropping thousands and thousands of bombs on innocent people. This is an overstatement. The UK is contributing a small number of air crafts to an existing operation, and it has basically been admitted that our contribution is unlikely to make a significant difference, they are also meant to be targeting Daesh only and avoiding civilian areas.  They are not trying to target civilians and they claim that the RAF has not killed a single civilian during the already existing operation in Iraq, in reality this is very hard to prove because of the sheer depth of destruction in this region and dubious sources, and we may never know for sure if this is true or not. We also do not know and may never know how many civilians are going to be effected or killed by extending the operations in Syria.
Syria is already being heavily bombed by different, overlapping forces and there doesn’t seem to be much proof that it is helping to end or even significantly hurt Daesh, but if there was a proper ground force and a realistic chance at a peace settlement it would be a helpful to weaken them, scatter them and help cut off their resources. As we do not have these things, I do not feel the bombing campaign is the best course of action, and I have not been convinced by any of the frankly half baked, rushed or non-relevant arguments by the MP’s or those who support this.
Some things came up in the debate, including Cameron’s assertion that bombing Syria will somehow make us safer in the UK and all the hype about Hilary Benn’s speech. There is also a very important issue no one seems to be thinking about, which is very worrying as it is extremely relevant to our security and the future of Syria.
I’m going to attempt to address these, but this is a very complex and multi-faceted issue and I’m not going to pretend to know what the best course of action should be. It does worry me that these points don’t seem to have been acknowledged adequately by parliament.

Firstly, the idea that bombing Syria will make us safer does not make sense to me. And the reason for this is simple. Although Daesh currently has its headquarters in Syria, the attacks that happened in Paris were carried out by those in Paris, not in Syria. The people who carried out the attacks may have been to Syria, they were in touch with people in Syria, but they were born in and residents of the EU. So although people who support Daesh and subscribe to their views are likely to be in touch with people in Syria, and as we know hundreds of people from our own country have travelled to, and worryingly back, from Syria, if attacks happen in this country they are very likely to be carried out by people already here, and therefore bombing Syria will not stop their ability to carry out attacks on our countries, and is likely to make ‘revenge attacks’ more likely, as well as potentially so called lone wolf attacks, by people inspired by but not directly connected to Daesh.
There is another reason as well. It is not just extremists who dislike our respective governments and the actions they have carried out in the past and continue to carry out now. There are thousands of people who hate the very notion of religious murder and the whole idea of Daesh who also hate our government and  their previous actions in the Middle East. There are plenty of people who see the war in Iraq as nothing more than a cold, calculated war crime and believe that those who were involved are murderers. And there are also plenty of people who disagree strongly with the decision taken on Wednesday, because they believe it is to do with oil and our governments collective greed. These are non radicalised and often peaceful people who hold these views. These are not limited to extremists. The reason Daesh’s propaganda works is because some of it is based on truth. Not the idea that there is some apocalyptic crusade in which they are fighting, and not the idea that murdering innocent people is going to result in some heavenly reward. But we do have a complicated, long running and often nasty history not just with the middle east but with most places around the world. This is not because people in our countries are abnormally evil, but because human history is full of people doing horrific things to each other all over the world. There is no way to excuse the murders these people have carried out in Europe or abroad. These people have murdered thousands within Syria and continue to stone, torture and execute any dissenters or anyone who even vaguely strays from their vision of Islam and their strict rules on behaviour. They have also filled mass graves with all the people they decided not to rape. And they have and continue to carry out horrific attacks outside of Syria, including our neighbors in France. These actions can never be excused; as human action goes these are among the most evil it could be and I hope everyone reading this is under no delusion that this is the case. But that does not mean that our countries actions over the last twenty years were any less terrible, that innocent people have not died during these ‘liberation’ wars. The ‘west’ are at least partly responsible for the hell that Daesh was born out of. This is by no means the only factor, but it is a factor, and until we stop ignoring our past mistakes we cannot hope to beat  this propaganda. There is also the fact that these people want to be martyred, and they want the west to commit atrocities because it furthers their cause.
This does not mean military action is not an option, but it does mean we have to be more careful when applying it and ensuring that it is part of a comprehensive plan, not just war for the sake of looking like we are doing something.

Secondly, Hilary Benn’s speech was really not all that. In terms of rhetorical devices and the art of public speaking, it wasn’t bad. He had a good use of tone, he applied several effective rhetorical devices and he had good presence. He would have done any debating club proud. But the actual words he said did not offer anything new to the debate, in fact in terms of addressing the issues at hand he failed on several accounts. He played it in such a way that everyone could agree with it without him actually having to say anything of note, and it worked very well for him. His analogy with ‘facism’ was effective because it invoked our feelings about Nazism, but it did not address the issue. This is not the same situation as it was during the second world war not least because warfare has changed a considerable amount. This is not fighting them on the grounds, seas and skies, and fighting a clear army with equal footing, this is dropping a few bombs a week from a great hight and adding slightly to the destruction of a country.
Most of his speech concerned the need to fight Daesh in general. No one was disputing that we needed to take action against them, the issue at hand was whether contributing air strikes, and a small number of air strikes at that, is the right approach to tackle them, not whether we should fight them at all. And he does address that where he says: “Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobane. Now of course air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh, but they make a difference because they are giving them a hard time and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.”. I find that pretty weak, because whilst it may slow them down, it does not mean they cannot regain the territory fairly quickly without ground forces to stop them and as we have seen in the campaign that is already happening whilst they have been stopped in some areas, they have gained territory in others. Without an effective ground army to keep them from regaining this territory, bombing will at best have very limited success.
His mentioned the ‘ground troops’ that we are relying on to hold the territory being bombed “But I tell you what else we know: it’s whatever the number – 70,000, 40,000, 80,000 – the current size of the opposition forces mean the longer we leave taking action, the longer Daesh will have to decrease that number” is also not a strong statement, in fact it highlights how little we know about these troops we are relying on, especially as they are very likely to have their own agendas. Some of these fighters are fighting for democracy, and some for their right to their own country, and some are doing very well and establishing free societies within that country, but others are not. If we train and equip these people, it is quite likely if we are able to defeat Daesh someone else will easily be able to take their place. The PM has basically admitted that some, who knows how many, are from Al Qaeda, the people we spent the last ten+ years fighting. There are many interests at work here, and I think it is extremely naive to think we can unite them all and control them, especially if they are not sure what we are offering them at the end of all this. And his statement “We are part of a coalition of over 60 countries standing together shoulder to shoulder to oppose their ideology and their brutality.” is something I’m really not convinced about. I’ve tried to find a list of every country involved in this ‘coalition’, and so far I have found around 24 countries with varying levels of involvement, as well as an array of local forces within the region. If anyone has any information on the other 36 countries apparently involved please let me know, otherwise I fail to understand where this figure has come from.
It was not a bad speech, but I do not believe it, or he, deserves the hype.  I do not feel he gave a convincing argument for  whether the UK contributing to air strikes would make a significant positive contribution to this war.  He did attempt address these points, although I do not believe he did so very well, but he spent far more rallying everyone up by making statements that are both easy to agree with and largely empty.

The third and perhaps most pressing point is that this war is far more complex then the MPs made out on Wednesday. It is not a case of a united country being invaded by Daesh that will go back to normal once they are removed. The civil war was not started because of Daesh, Daesh was just able to capitalize on it because of the chaos that was already happening. And the civil war will not stop with their removal. There are many differing and often un-compatible interests in Syria, and it is far more complex than it sounded during the debate. President Assad has most probably killed more Syrians than Daesh have, and many Syrian people have fought for years to remove him. So when and if we can defeat Daesh, there will be a few options, and none of them are ideal. Firstly, we could say that our sole aim was to defeat Daesh and now we will withdraw military action, in which case the chaos is likely to continue and a similar group will sooner or later have the opportunity to emerge, or that Assad will regain power (in which case see point three). We could go against Russia and say that we will continue to fight, and therefore fight Russia to remove Assad, which is likely to anger Iran and Russia and could potentially lead to World War Three. Wars have started for less. Or we could side with Russia and turn the country over to Assad, which is probably the most likely plan, which would be a betrayal of the Syrian people who have spent years in a hellish war. To say all of that was for nothing and that things would be set back to how they were before this all started is almost guaranteed to turn these people against us, and out of all the possible scenario’s the fact will remain that we will have proved to the world we only care about those who directly effect us and are perfectly happy to work with murderous dictators and turn a blind eye to their domestic policies as long as they are friendly to us. Some people are comparing this to Iraq, but it is not the same. It is not a case of us invading a country for no reason and removing a dictator with no end plan, many people in Syria have already risen up against Assad. We are not enforcing this from our comfortable plushy offices overseas, many people in Syria have fought for this for years.

There is no easy answer to this issue, all have the potential to be very messy and unpleasant, and I am not sure anyone really knows how to deal with it  if and when it does come up. What I do know is that by rushing into an air strike on Syria we have thrown ourselves into a much bigger conflict than we would like to think about, and the assertion that it is hardly an issue because the borders are not recognized by Daesh is not the point. The point is that the situation in Syria is not the situation in Iraq, and now we have committed ourselves to something I am not convinced any of the MP’s really understand. I am not saying military action is the wrong approach, and at some point it would probably have been necessary. But I feel they should have spent far longer thinking about the immediate as well as the future consequences and thought up at least the beginnings of a solid plan before engaging these air strikes. The Vienna talks are intended to solve this issue, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, and until they do the situation remains uncertain with or without Daesh. This was not just extending the war. This was much more than that, and to say it is not is to lie to the public.

 

Further reading:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-air-strikes-cartoon-sums-up-the-problem-with-the-international-coalition-against-isis-a6755521.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/11/us-air-strikes-iraq-isis-minimal-impact-pentagon

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12032102/Awful-though-it-seems-working-with-Assad-may-be-the-only-option-in-Syria.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/12/02/jeremy-corbyn-warns-uk-fa_n_8700172.html

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2015/12/heres-the-hilary-benn-syria-speech-transcript-in-full/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-and-france-will-co-operate-against-isis-but-vladimir-putin-and-francois-hollande-at-odds-over-a6750781.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/03/syria-assad-question-means-a-common-front-against-isis-is-still-a-long-way-off

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34981848