Why I’m backing Trump on Syria

The Syrian Civil War has been raging for seven years. It seems as if there is no end to the bloodshed which has so far killed an estimated 300,000+ in the country. The horror of the conflict appeared to have reached its climax with sieges in Aleppo, Ghouta and Raqqa in recent years, but the massive loss of civilian life in the conflict broke humanity’s boundaries of tolerance this week, after up to 70 Syrian civilians were killed in a chemical attack. The utterly despicable and illegal use of chemical warfare has been seen before when President Assad’s forces dropped chlorine bombs on Talmenes in April 2014 and Sarmin in March 2015. With international outrage directed at Assad and his allies in Russia and Iran, President Trump looks set to order air strikes against the Syrian dictator. In this article I will explain why I am fully supportive of this.

In 2012, President Obama warned Assad that the use of chemical weapons was a ‘red line’, and any attempt to use them on his people would entail ‘significant consequences’. However, this red line had worn to a faint shade of pink by the time Assad used chlorine bombs to kill innocent civilians, and Obama did not act. It is my belief that this reluctance to confront Assad set a dangerous precedent: Assad believed he could use chlorine to attack civilian populations and simply get away with it. As we saw this month, this was a careless precedent to set and it has resulted in the deaths of many more Syrians at the hands of chemical weapons.

Indeed, it has not been established that Assad was behind this month’s chemical attack; ISIS have previously used mustard gas to kill Syrians in the conflict, and there are multiple actors involved in the Syrian war who may be able to access chemical weapons. In light of this, there must be an immediate investigation into the source of these weapons, and who has used them. But given Assad’s history of using these weapons, I feel it is extremely likely he is responsible for the latest attack, and in supporting them, as too are Russia and Iran. By supporting Assad’s barbarous regime, they have blood-soaked hands, and it is the duty of Western powers like ourselves and the US to ensure that as no more civilian blood is spilt as a result chemical warfare.

However, even if Assad is not behind this latest attack we know that Assad still retains the means to use chemical weapons. Previous chemical attacks have been launched from Syrian airbases, such as last year’s attack originating from the Al Shayrat airfield in northern Syria, which was targeted by US missiles shortly after the attack in March. This attack occurred after Assad had committed to destroying his chemical weapons stockpiles, so we know that these stockpiles have not been totally destroyed. Furthermore, chlorine was not subject to the ban on chemical weapons because it has domestic uses, even though it has been used by Assad to attack Syrian towns in the past. Consequently, Assad could use it again.

Thus, I support President Trump’s decision to authorise airstrikes in Syria. These strikes must be coordinated specifically against military facilities used by Assad and his allies in the country, to destroy his means of chemical warfare and avoid civilian casualties. Theresa May should also commit the UK’s air power to preventing Assad from using chemical weapons which are a stain on the conscience of humanity. Furthermore, Jeremy Corbyn must condemn Assad and his allies specifically for their continued possession of chemical weapons and acknowledge that, though in the long-term the conflict in Syria requires a political solution to secure peace, in the short-term military action is the only solution to prevent the killing of civilians by chemical weapons.

Finally, to those arguing we should stand by and allow Assad to butcher his own people in the most heinous fashion because it is ‘not our fight’, and we should ‘not get involved’, coordinated air strikes against Assad’s military capacity is not fighting anybody’s fight. We are not striking soldiers, towns or cities which are within Assad’s stronghold, or indeed the assets of any side in this conflict. The military option we will take is not getting involved in the conflict but fulfilling our international obligation to defending the safety and human rights of the Syrian people who are the only losers in this long, deadly conflict.

 

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Why We Should Always Help Homeless People When We Can

Britain pillaged the world for centuries, extracting enormous amounts of wealth from the hands of its crippled, starving colonial subjects. Just over ten years since Britain’s last colony escaped from the clutches of British rule, that same exploitation is occurring today. Not  because of imperialism or slavery, but because of heartless political ineptitude. In the fifth largest economy in the world, and on the coldest night this year, there are people without a home stood shaking in the snow. This is a moral catastrophe for a nation which has sucked in the wealth of others for centuries but yet still cannot distribute it to alleviate homeless people freezing, dying amongst us. This has to change but, in the meantime, we should all do as much as we can to help.

I long avoided giving homeless people “any spare change?”, in the fear that they might spend it unwisely; alcohol, cigarettes, drugs – you know the warnings. This always seemed a sensible approach to me, as it would deter people in such a dire situation from advancing the pain and horrors of their homeless struggle further. Despite this logical reasoning however, as I walked away from them following my decline and an apology, I was always aware that the person I had just turned down may have simply been a quid away from a hostel. Possibly the only night that week they’d get a night out of the cold.

This thought ballooned in my head with every homeless person I saw, which felt like more and more by the day. But the breaking point came on an evening following days of thick, heavy snow. A small woman approached me on my walk home, and with a shattered, broken voice she hoarsely pleaded with me for some change to pay for a night in a hostel. Rummaging through my layers, there was no change. At which point I concluded there was no way I could walk away from her without giving her something, so I handed her my gloves.

I do not need gloves while I am ten minutes from my centrally-heated home. She needs gloves because she has no place to go, nothing to warm her, and literally no break from the bitter night ahead. I do not need gloves when relatively, I have everything, and she has very little.

This encounter prompted me to decide that, if I could, I would give something to someone if they asked for it. Because, in answer to my previous suspicions, for every generalised concern that a homeless person may spend my money on alcohol or drugs, it is a concern that surpasses my concern about their health and wellbeing. Why is it that I would consider what they spend my money on before why they might need to spend it? Surely the fact that homeless people have nothing and are quite literally freezing to death in the open-air, warrants my giving of aid?

Secondly, suppose that person did spend their money ‘unwisely’ (which will inevitably be the case from time to time), is this not understandable? These people are being forced to wonder the streets in blistering temperatures because the government of the fifth largest economy in world is too inept to provide the skills, the training, the employment, the wages, the housing, or the aid to its citizens. It may be that the only joy of their lives is to spend what little money they have left on alcohol or drugs because the situation they are in is so dire, so contemptuous, that such a route is what they choose.

So, let us be less judgemental and suspicious of homeless people, and recognise their plight before what they might spend your money on. They are part of our society, and though the leadership of our society cannot take care of them, we should as much as practical and possible. And if you can’t see their suffering enough to help, talk to them and hear what they’re going through. It will change your perspective entirely, as it did for me.

Why the Far Right are on the Rise in Europe. And How to Stop Them.

When Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen won the Austrian Presidential election in 2016, huge celebrations proclaimed that the far-right had been defeated in Europe, with the left-of-centre status quo being maintained. Similarly in France, centrist Emmanuel Macron’s triumph over Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen in the 2017 Presidential Election was followed by praise that far right politics had been crushed. Yet in the same year as Macron’s election, Austria’s government lurched from the right, to the far right, as the conservative People’s Party formed a coalition with the Freedom Party. A party which has recently begun an internal investigation over its links to Nazism. And despite Macron’s election, Le Pen had previously secured almost as many votes as him in the election’s penultimate round, putting her in second place.

With the far-right AfD party overtaking the centre-left SPD in Germany, the integrity of social democracy in Europe is looking increasingly shaky. The rise of the far-right is clearly attributed to hostility towards the EU’s inept immigration policy. But these issues alone are not driving the far-right’s march to the top of national polling. It is the reluctance, stubbornness, and in some cases out right inconsideration, of Europe’s establishment and the liberal commentariat, to address the widespread concerns that Europeans have about the issue of immigration and other EU polices. I will in this article urge the liberal commentariat and European establishment politicians to engage with its citizens who have concerns about immigration and European integration, rather than ignore them or repudiate them with accusations of racism and bigotry. Otherwise, the far right will continue to dominate discourse, polls and possibly, power – which would be a terrible step for Europe.

Free movement of peoples within the European Union has long been an issue in British politics. Net migration peaked at its highest ever in 2016 at 330,000 after rising for years previous and many Britons felt this was too high, citing concerns about availability of public services, housing and jobs. Legitimate concerns they were, yet the establishment got to work in dismantling them as ‘loonies, fruitcakes and closet racists’ as David Cameron labelled supporters of UKIP. Even before migration peaked, Gordon Brown famously stigmatised Gillian Duffy as a ‘bigoted woman’, for her concerns about immigration. In British politics today, there exists a culture which objects to any concern about immigration as being racist, and the list of politicians and commentators who have exemplified this is endless. Ironically, those in well paid jobs, presumably living in middle class urban areas who launch such accusations, are the very people who are affected the least by immigration.

Without delving into a lengthy discussion of human geography, economics and sociology, ultimately it is working class people living in the least affluent communities who feel the rapid cultural, social and economic changes that high levels of immigration bring. And rather than engage with their concerns and consider practical solutions as to how to help them deal with this, or even control immigration so that over-demand for services and rapidly changing communities don’t become significant issues for communities, the establishment has derided them. At an EU level, the response has been to simply ignore them, with Angela Merkel declaring that freedom of movement was non-negotiable in 2016, crushing any prospect of sensible immigration policy in the EU any time soon. Following the European referendum, senior MEP Guy Verhoftstadt called for greater integration within the EU, a European army (the emergence of which Nick Clegg remarked in 2014 would be a ‘dangerous fantasy’ to even consider) and further currency integration. These sentiments have also been echoed by Commission President, Jean-Claude Junker.

Despite Britain voting to leave the EU with concerns about the EU’s freedom of movement policy and resulting high immigration levels being integral to the decision, the message is clear. The establishment isn’t listening, politicians are still mocking, and despite successions of very-near victories for the far-right in elections across Europe, the mainstream commentariat is still naïve about their electoral success. Unless politicians and commentators take on board the very real concerns about immigration that Europeans have, and propose some meaningful reform to the system, the far-right will continue to make gains. They may not have won in France, they may not have won in Germany. But they are winning in Austria, in Sweden, in Italy. And it’s only a matter of time before far-right populism creeps into power across the continent, straight past the heads of politicians who were too naïve to think it could happen. And while controlling immigration properly is not racist, but common sense, the populist xenophobia of the far-right which could sweep Europe certainly is – and that would be a political and moral disaster for Europe.

I plead with the establishment, don’t let this happen.

Feminism is not a dirty word. Not even for men.

To some, a barrier exists to surround feminism. It’s a fence which shuts out half of the human population, protecting and serving only one of the genders; the females among us. It’s a dirty word, applicable exclusively to the struggles and strains faced by women, and never should be approached by men-kind. Or so you think…

This has long been the perception of many. And of course, one can hardly lambast them for this; ‘feminism’ – the clue is in the name. The reason for the continued connotations of feminism being, well, so feminine, is due to its roots in womens’ struggle for rights. Most notably the Suffregettes’ direct action and protest which eventually forced the state to concede to them the right to vote. The right to vote! Such a simple, insignificant cog in our modern day lives to which women were denied the right until 1918. One which we seldom contemplate.

This is what feminism came to represent. The right of women to exercise the freedoms that men enjoy themselves. Today, this is still extremely relevant to our national conversation, as women are still without certain freedoms which men are granted. As Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project exposed, a woman’s right to privacy is often flouted. Bates’ project documented tales of women walking along the pavements of our urban centres after dark, endlessly endeavouring to escape cat calling and slurs about legs which salaciously follower her from close behind. And so, feminism in a contemporary context is necessary in damming the torrent of sexist, objectifying remarks which woman are too frequently overwhelmed with.

But has feminism really become a segregating fence? Shutting out men and stigmatising it among male circles? The answer is, no. Some believe this to be true, yet in the twenty-first century, feminism has adapted, and does not seek only to represent the hardships of women in society. It has become a broader movement reflecting the inequalities of both genders. It is simply an umberalla under which those affected by gender related prejudices and discrimination can gather. And fight for their right to equality.

Girls are shy. Boys fight. Men don’t cry. Women are promiscuous. (But not too promiscuous of course as that would make you a slut*). Is there not a symmetrical unfairness in forcing gender roles upon men and women throughout their lives, to which they must comply and accept without any deviation? Endless advertisements displaying muscle packed/paper thin, toned/tanned and spotless bodies that reinforce ‘the perfect’ body are the mediums through which we are told how to live and look in our genders. Those that watch with eager eyes often turn to ones of dismay as this idealist conception of gender forced upon them fails to materialise in their own bodies. The indoctrination that they are too this, too that, too girly, too manly, and not good enough, prevails in the form of mental health issues and growing suicide rates among males in particular.

This is another shocking reality that gender roles have created. Men are discouraged for revealing there feelings. Men with depression, hollowed out and wholly unfilled with emotion are often told to ‘man up’. And the result is escalating numbers of men who take their own lives in desperate attempts to escape the social and emotional blight of gender roles which often grants only criticism and judgement instead of support and assistance.

Ultimately, only feminism can free men and women from gender roles. Rather than being reserved for one half of our species, feminism today speaks for both. Don’t be fooled into believing feminism can’t be for you. If you suffer under the regime of gender roles, believe in feminism. It’s not a dirty word – it’s a fundamental step to a more equal society for all of us.

*I hope the tone of sarcasm in this line is obvious.

The Labour Party is sliding towards defeat. And there’s still three years before the election.

As I sit comfortably on my flight home from Schönefeld Airport I can’t help but feel slightly irritated. It is not that I am leaving the splendid streets of Germany’s beautiful capital (though it could be that). It is not the irritation that arises from thinking about my phone which was pick-pocketed two days previous (though it definitely could be that). It is instead that the Labour Party is sliding towards defeat. And there’s still three years before the election.

Two byelections in one day proved a tough test for Labour. But leader Jeremy Corbyn had Friday circled in the calendar for weeks, conveying just how ecstatic he was to do battle in the Stoke-On-Trent and Copeland byelections, describing them as “an opportunity to hold government to account.” A largely positive attitude to what was predicted to be a bruising campaign for Labour as they fought UKIP leader Paul Nuttall in Stoke-On-Trent. However, I doubt Jeremy was as enthusiastic when the results came out last night. 

While Labour managed to just cling to Stoke-On-Trent Central, they lost 2.2% of their majority from the last election. And the big shock came with Copeland. The results were read, and depicted a shock loss for Labour which cast a dark shadow over the spirits of all involved in the campaign. A gain for the Conservatives and a devastating loss for Labour. Not only a gain for the governing party from one in opposition, which has not occurred in a byelection for thirty-five years, but Corbyn’s main argument in his defence is usually that Labour are performing well in byelections. The fact that Copeland was a Labour heartland safe seat since 1924 just adds to the utter dismay. Moreover, while some point to the fact that Labour’s share of the vote in Copeland has been declining incrementally since 1997, doesn’t this damn Corbyn even further? If Corbyn was the answer to Labour’s problems in Copeland, then shouldn’t he have revived Labour’s vote share there and secured the seat? Instead, he lost them their so-called safe seat.

And if losing a seat that was well entrenched into the Labour family was not in itself a savage indictment of Corbyn’s Labour Party, one will shudder when seeing the latest party polling (shudder that is, if you’re anything other than a Tory). In the last twenty five polls taken by various organisations (according to ukpollingreport.co.uk), Labour have only reached thirty per cent approval or more four times. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have seen a gain in every single poll. Currently (poll taken February 10th), YouGov has the Tories at forty per cent and Labour at only twenty-four per cent. It is clear that there is an exodus of Labour voters among the electorate.

So what have the Labour leadership said in response to their bombing poll numbers? Long standing supporter of Jeremy, Diane Abbott (Shadow Home Secretary), said in September last year that they would close the poll gap ‘in twelve months’. Well Diane, you’re not exactly within reach of Downing Street at the moment, although in fairness it hasn’t quite been twelve months since you made that remark. Still, seven months to go! Abbott also repeatedly makes the case that Labour is now the biggest political party in Europe, with over 540,000 members. That is true, but one must understand the context of this growth in membership. From the offset of the Blair/Brown years, the Labour Party lost some support amongst its left wing following. They left to join the Greens (who recently experienced a ‘Green surge’ in members) and other smaller left wing parties. Some left politics altogether. Further to this, those who were of left wing influence simply remained on the outskirts of the political sphere, feeling unrepresented by Blair’s ‘third way’ centrist brand of politics.

Now that Labour is headed by a figure that embodies these left wing views, the lost left demographic have returned to the party that they either once resided in, or now feel speaks for them. This is why Labour’s membership is so high. But Corbyn and his allies must be wary; increased membership does not equate to an increase in seats. While Jeremy may possess the ability to summon huge crowds of supporters in Liverpool, and have flocks of lefties joining the Labour Party, his supporters are missing the point. Liverpool (Liverpool Central) has been a Labour safe seat since its creation in 1983, and those members who are joining the Labour Party in huge numbers either voted Green before, or Labour already. So effectively, Jeremy and his supporters like Diane Abbot, are arguing that they will close the polling gap and win the election, by preaching to the converted.  This delusional thinking must end, or Labour faces existential decline alike to the lost decades that Labour spent chasing a dying socialist dream in opposition to Thatcher’s government.

Of course, I am by no means a Conservative. Far from it, I too want an end to the cuts to disability benefits and inadequate wage growth. I want investment in our public services and a properly funded NHS. But I don’t want to achieve these things while simultaneously driving the economy over a cliff. Jeremy Corbyn has said he would borrow five-hundred-billion pounds and spend it on infrastructure investment. This is a policy which I accept, is good in principle: we need investment to grow the economy. But five-hundred-billion pounds would add vast numbers to the national debt which is already at an astonishing ninety per cent of GDP. By 2020 it is predicted to surpass two-trillion Sterling. To add yet more to this figure would be a betrayal of my generation. Myself and other young people would have to pay off this balloon in the national debt. And how would we do that? We would be forced to implement austerity to pay for it. That is the irony of Jeremy Corbyn and his followers’ aims. Their programme to end austerity would only result in more of what they want to tackle in the first place, as this would be the only solution to the mess of the public finances, riddled with debt, that Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policy would likely create.

Conversely, I acknowledge that I am by no means an economic expert, nor can I see beyond the present. So let’s look at Corbyn’s reasoning behind this policy. The theory behind borrowing, spending and investing is that the economy would grow to pay for all that borrowing. But the current national debt is already far too large. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, paying the net debt interest rates in 2014-15 cost the government twenty-eight billion pounds (1). That is merely the interest payments on a national debt that was over one-trillion pounds at the time. This figure will be higher still by 2020 when the national debt hits the two-trillion mark. And that is without the five-hundred-billion pounds that Jeremy Corbyn wants to borrow. I don’t believe that any economic growth would be sufficient enough to bring down the tower of tremendous debt accumulated by Corbyn’s borrowing. As a result, the suffering that my generation would have to undergo to pay off the national debt (via more austerity) makes Corbyn’s economic policy morally wrong. If my argument doesn’t convey this already, just think where that money spent on the interest repayments could go. Twenty-eight billion a year could be spent on the NHS or housing. Or, as I advocate, a small scale investment project that would boost the economy and create jobs, without adding heaps to the national debt.

Adopting this policy of blasé spending and borrowing merely broadcasts to the electorate that Labour can’t run the economy. Meanwhile, their vote share is dwindling. As I have already explained, while membership is rising, these members already vote Labour and do not need to be won over by Corbyn. Instead, Labour need to be talking to those who voted Conservative at the last election, in order to win seats. If Labour fail to do so, the results will only hurt working people. A Labour Party losing elections means a Labour Party unable to prevent Tory cuts to education, disability benefits and hospitals. It means a Labour Party unable to build on the remarkable achievements of its past: the minimum wage, maternity rights and tackling climate change. All that they can do in opposition is complain about the government and remain completely powerless to help those they claim to represent.

So what can be done? Well, Jeremy has an enormous democratic mandate from the Labour membership. One that should not be overturned, as I pride myself in being a democrat. Instead, those centre-left voices crying in the wilderness of the Corbyn-era Labour Party should continue to speak up, and not be silenced by the yahoo socialist thinking that has engulfed the Labour leadership. Let us come together to make our case, and chip away at the arguments of Corbyn supporters, so eager are they to maintain that Labour is a ‘success’ under Corbyn. Let us carry on pushing an economic policy agenda of moderate investment while protecting the economy and bringing down debts, that will win back Tory votes and seats. Let us maintain that Britain rejected socialist Labour for eighteen years in the twentieth century, and by these polls they are doing so again. Granted Corbyn is an honest, decent and convicted man. If he was my grandad it would be hard not to love him. But as Labour leader, he is losing us votes. And with this hard-left agenda we may continue to lose out on votes and crucially power, unless we return to centre-left, common sense thinking.

  1. https://www.ifs.org.uk/tools_and_resources/fiscal_facts/public_spending_survey/debt_interest_payments
  2. Photo copyright GettyImages. I do not own this image.