The tragic and appalling events in Paris have reinforced the enduring threat of Islamic jihadist terrorism across the globe – not just in Syria or Egypt or Iraq or Afghanistan but in Europe too. It’s an existential threat to our civilised values of free speech, tolerance, mutual respect and liberal values in general. Anyone who watched the England versus France football game at Wembley on Tuesday could not but have been moved with pride at our country’s basic decency and solidarity with the grieving French people. We suffered too in 2005 and can all empathise with their pain and sense of national loss, particularly for the lives of too many hopeful young men and women.
It is a war - as President Hollande of France said this week – and one we must wage relentlessly and without pity. That is why I will vote for military action in Syria even if it means having to work alongside such unsavoury “allies” as President Putin and the Iranian regime, whenever the Prime Minister brings a vote to Parliament. The prospect of a long term ceasefire in the Syrian civil war is hugely important but must not stymie tough action against the barbarians wreaking death, torture and destruction across much the Middle East as I write.
In defending all that we love in our country, we must also seek and receive the active and vocal support of mainstream Muslims and their community leaders, in order to prevail. That means rooting out our own home grown extremists and those who would radicalise and poison the minds of young and impressionable men and women.
I believe that free speech and liberty is, however, a relative and not an absolute concept and it never trumps the primary aim of any democratically elected Government, which is to keep its people safe and that means our national borders, in the first instance. That’s why I raised directly with the Prime Minister in the Commons this week the disturbing news that 450 violent jihadist fighters had returned from the Middle East and been allowed back into the UK in the last year – and that I believe that we need to take tough and even draconian powers against them, including revoking their passports, in order to safeguard the general public. We must also bring forward the draft Investigatory Powers Bill to Parliament as soon as possible which along with extra spending on the security services (to the tune of £2 billion), will help us in the fight against ISIS and other terrorists (Note to BBC: Not “militants”). Events have surely vindicated the policy of taking only a limited amount of Syrian refugees directly from camps in Lebanon and Turkey, rather than the foolish and disastrous German policy of throwing open the doors to thousands of people of whom we know little and for whom we cannot adequately establish their bona fides?
David Cameron has risen to the occasion over the weekend and in his Commons statement, speaking for the nation with a measured and statesmanlike response to these terrible events and there has largely been a bipartisan approach to these issues. By contrast, the comments of the Leader of the Opposition who prevaricated on whether police could “shoot to kill” a potential terrorist or suicide bomber threatening the lives of people in the UK and also questioned the legality of the drone strike on brutal murderer Jihadi John, borne out of a traditional equivocating, extremist Left Wing world view circa 1981, is unbecoming of a Party Leader and has embarrassed the majority of Labour MPs.
To those many decent, patriotic Labour voters in Peterborough, horrified by Mr Corbyn’s approach, I will always be your voice in Parliament, even though you’d never vote for me - whilst your own party decides whose side it’s on in a conflict that will affect not just us but our children’s future and indeed whether it’s still a serious party of government.
It might take some time.