Opinion: ‘We must do more to help Ukrainians now’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 6th March 2022, 3:15 pm
A protest in support of Ukraine in Cathedral Square.
A protest in support of Ukraine in Cathedral Square.

Much of politics is a run of the mill business, we have debates about where funds should be allocated and how we can improve public services. Sometimes, however, there are moments which will be 
recorded in the history books and studied by generations to come.

We are at just such a moment with Ukraine.

It can be difficult to persuade people to vote. Some people may feel that it is a pointless exercise, that there is little to distinguish between politicians of differing parties. I hope that Ukraine shows that there are still people willing to fight and die for the right to select those who govern them.

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It is a sacred cause; it was secured over time in this country by the efforts and suffering of many. What is our excuse for not voting?

Beyond this, we can pay tribute to the bravery of the Ukrainian people by contributing to charities which look to alleviate the suffering of refugees, including United Help Ukraine (https://unitedhelpukraine.org/)

But we should do more.

I am disappointed that unlike Poland, Slovakia and other European partners, we are not opening our doors more widely to Ukrainians who need a place of refuge.

It seems that our Conservative home secretary is playing more to past prejudices than to current contingencies.

It is rather odd, considering that her parents took advantage of Britain’s welcoming policies in order to relocate. I wonder how many of her colleagues realise this: had Britain acted towards Uganda in the past as it proposes to act towards Ukraine now, they would not have their present home secretary.

Can we be in any doubt that the Ukrainians would contribute to our society? Who has not been inspired by their fortitude and resolve in the present crisis? Surely as a country we would benefit by their example, not just in understanding the value of liberty, but also by their sheer perseverance, which seems similar to British resolve in ages past.

I believe Peterborough Council can do much more than it is doing. It should be making representations, as a diverse city, to Westminster and saying, open the door wider. Let people who stood against tyranny find a safe harbour here. Let them work, let them open businesses, let them contribute to the economy and culture. Let a Ukrainian restaurant open in the heart of our city. Let there be a festival, in due course, of Ukrainian culture and music. Let their example be an inspiration.

Let all this happen by merely giving these people a chance.

I am not expecting the Conservative administration to show this kind of leadership. This would require them to rise above the everyday manoeuvrings which presently obsess them and look to the imperatives of the moment. History is being written right now, by what the Ukrainians do, by what Britain does, by what even we here in Peterborough do.

We either rise to the moment or the tide of history submerges us beneath the waves. We in the Labour Group are committed to responding as this country should.

I believe many people in Peterborough, if asked, would agree with us.