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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Refugee Crisis, The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time, Jeremy Corbyn

The big story since the summer has been the Refugee Crisis across the Middle East and into Europe. This is a human tragedy. Highlighted by the photo showing the death en route of a three-year-old boy called Aylan Kurdi, this great piece of photo-journalism appears to have shifted or activated public opinion and thus the words and deeds of the politicians. On the right hand we have the Hungarian Government refusing to allow thousands of mostly Syrian refugees fleeing civil war to board a train using tickets they had purchased to Germany. Hungary and other Eastern countries have made it clear they don’t want these people (i.e. Muslims) and are building long fences with razor-wire to protect their borders. With them we have the Farrages the Hopkins and the right wing of the Tory party who basically say Fortress Britain, keep ‘em out, and we will send a bit of money over there to ease our consciences. On the other hand (the left one) we have the Corbynites and the do-gooders who say let ‘em all in, we can easily help them. The true answer is as usual somewhere in the middle. If we allow too many people into Europe, we will see a rise in racism and a lurch to the far right, which will be bad for everyone, particularly the already integrated foreign populations. If we do very little to help, not only will be neglecting our responsibilities as human beings, we will be in breach of the UN and Geneva Conventions, and above all, we will be missing a huge economic opportunity. Unfortunately Angela Merkel’s announcement that Germany would welcome 800,000 refugees per year has attracted many migrants to make the journey who were not previously considering it, many from safe countries close to the EU.

The Picture that changed public attitudes

What is clear to me is that our world leaders have failed in a number of distinct areas, and given how long the Syrian and other conflicts have been going on in the region (at least 4 years of war in Syria), with so many predicting this outflow of refugees, it is shameful that now it has started, most of them have no effective policy to handle it. 

So here is my 5-point plan for what we should be doing and fast:

1. The UK, our European partners, and other rich countries should be doing far more to resolve the civil war in Syria and defeat Islamic State. Perhaps if we had started to act more effectively and more substantially a few years ago, the current crisis would be far smaller. At the moment, apart from allied air strikes which will never win a war, we rely on the Kurds to fight on the ground and Turkey has vetoed a UN resolution in which we wanted to arm the Kurds to help them fight! World leaders, please agree a plan to sort this out! Ironically it may be Putin who makes the first move towards some sort of solution.

2. Reception Centres close to the borders: Operated by the UNHCR, these camps currently look after millions of refugees on the Syrian borders in Jordan and Lebanon. They are running out of money and this needs to be addressed as the 2 million people there start to depart due to the worsening conditions. However, this is clearly only a temporary solution until point 1 above is resolved. Could take a while!

3. Reception Centres at EU borders: Refugees seeking asylum in the EU should apply at Reception Centres on the EU border and only genuine refugees from Syria, Eritrea or Somaila, plus a few others who are clearly facing persecution at home should be allowed entry. The others should not be allowed in (and there are many of them – perhaps more than half of all the migrants)

4. A coherent policy to resettle refugees in rich countries across the world: The refugees who are allowed entry should be divided up amongst the world’s richest countries (including the EU, USA, Canada, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, etc.) so that the load is spread into manageable numbers. Even Brazil has recently offered to take a few thousand people. If every country did its bit, the number of people would be quite manageable.

5. A clear and resolute policy to refuse entry or send home economic migrants who are not fleeing war or persecution [such as the 425,000 migrants from the Balkans who entered the EU in 2013].

So that’s all sorted then. No it isn’t. Unfortunately we are only seeing the beginning of an ever-increasing flow of people out of poor and war-ridden regions. Some estimates show that 80% of the current migrants arriving are male. Once they have bedded-in, they may well have their families follow them over. Soon, climate change will also start to bring more waves of refugees. Our leaders have got to start to act together across the world, even if it does means some compromises such as aligning with Russia’s Putin.

For my birthday, my family bought us tickets to see The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time at The Gielgud theatre in London. The Gielgud is a fairly small intimate theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. The play is based on the book by Mark Haddon which I remember reading over 10 years ago and very much liking as it is so different, enthralling and educational. The play did the book justice. It is about Christopher, a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s, a type of autism, and is written from his point of view as he tries to live through his parents’ separation, his special school and of course the curious incident with the dog. I particularly like the representation of the journey he takes by train to Paddington and the tube journey from Paddington on the Bakerloo line, which mirrored the train and tube journey we took from Oxford to Paddington and to the theatre that very evening. Being autistic, he finds the journey – his first – very challenging with the crowds, the noise, the new routines, the noise, all particularly challenging. In addition to the amazing theatrical representation, I am sure that each of us shares, at least just a little, the fear of travelling on public transport to an unknown place for the first time. In the rush hour. In a large capital city. Those of us that do the same journey every day get used to it, but the first time, I am sure most of us feel at least a little bit like Christopher. The great thing about this book is that it opens your eyes to what it is like to be autistic and will I am sure make people more sympathetic and understanding. The book is on the syllabus in schools around the world. Read it now if you haven’t already done so, and go see the play as it tours the UK soon.

Tony Blair’s quote during the Labour Leadership campaign along the lines of 'if your heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant' has been widely quoted. And Jeremy Corbyn won the contest with a massive majority to become the new Labour Party Leader, the first true lefty since the days of Arthur Scargill and the Unions. Just to underline his left-wing credentials, here are a few things he does and believes in:

· Worked as a columnist for The Morning Star (the newspaper of The UK Communist Party) for 10 years

· Sings ‘Keep The Red Flag Flying’ at conferences but doesn't know the words to the National Anthem

· Believes we should be printing money to fund construction and other projects

· Has been (and may well still be) friends with Gerry Adams, Hezbollah, Hamas, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and others (I am not against talking to and negotiating with these people, but calling them your friends is a big step too far)

· Nationalisation of the Railways and the Utility Companies (where will he get the money from? Print it?)

· Introduction of rent controls and ability for private sector renters to buy the property

· Arms Embargo on Israel

· Re-unification of Ireland

· Introduction of a Maximum Wage

· He is a pacifist and would in no circumstances press the nuclear button

Okay I am going to stop there as you will get the picture of this idealist communist claptrap that he is spouting. Back to the bad old days of the 1970s and 80s which I grew up in, where the UK was being torn apart by trade disputes, strikes took place virtually weekly and we were fast descending the world league table of respectable countries. His policies and promises may sound wonderful to some but we have been there before and not only do they not work, but they will be an economic disaster leaving everyone (including the poor) poorer and less healthy. These people resent the rich so their solution is to make everyone poor! I remember walking to the bus stop to go to school in North London in the 1970s, never knowing if any buses would be running. There were constant disputes between the Unions and the Government that resulted in one strike after another. A regular scene was piles of rubbish in the streets (the council refuse dept. was on strike) and power cuts, all culminating in the 3 day week. Power had to be rationed (due to strikes) which meant that the country could only work 3 days. I remember vividly eventually getting back from school on cold winter evenings to our house which was illuminated by candles (good excuse not to do my homework) and my mother heating up some baked beans on a little Bunsen burner as our cooker was electric. Britain was the sick man of Europe with major decisions made by the union chiefs. If this had continued, even my schoolboy eyes could see that the UK would fast become a third world country. Yet the Corbynites appear to want to return to the 70s and 80s, and if they don’t all openly admit it, just read their policies and see how familiar they look against the pre-Thatcher years.

The Labour Party have just held their Conference in Brighton next to the pier: is this what Britain would look like after a Corbyn Government?

In the month since Jeremy Corbyn was elected to his new position, he is gradually being persuaded by colleagues to moderate his position on a number of issues (he will now campaign to stay in the EU for example) in order to keep the party united and make it a bit less unelectable. It remains to be seen how long they can keep this nonsense together. Given the difficult times in which we live, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it last quite a long time. Corbyn and his cronies mean well and genuinely wish to help the poor. But like so many true socialists, they don't have their feet on the ground and they are very good at spending other people's money but not good at generating money to pay for their policies. Result: unhappiness all around.

The 3 day week in the 1970's. Good job the typewriters were not electric!

“I am probably more likely than Jeremy Corbyn to be elected Prime Minister” Adam Sidbury 1st October 2015 [By the way, I am not standing for the position]

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