Wednesday 16 December 2015

Whose Trolling Who?

In my opinion - dropping bombs in Syria is a terrible, terrible idea. The majority of Labour Party M.P's share my opinion. It's frustrating that a minority of Labour M.P. voted for dropping bombs. But no matter how frustrated you are please don't send angry and abusive e-mails to your M.P. Send lists, send long letters, send jokes but please don't become an internet troll.
Siobhain Mcdonagh is the Labour M.P. for Mitchum and Morden in Greater London. She is a very popular and hard working M.P. who has lived her whole life in the area she represents. I was sad to hear she's been getting unpleasant mail. Mrs Mcdonagh is not alone.
MP Neil Coyle spoke of his fears for his pregnant wife following a Twitter message featuring knife images. “There is this vociferous minority that think that they can make these threats and abuse people,” Mr Coyle told Sky News. “My concern is also for my staff and my volunteers in the local Labour party volunteers who give their time… and are not being told we need security for our events and things like that. That’s unacceptable. “My home address was put online - I have to worry about my wife who’s pregnant. Fundamentally, there is something wrong about people who think it’s OK to make these kinds of threats.” Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, who has faced threats of deselection, was forced to leave the chamber during Syria debate to deal with abusive phone calls to her office.
John McDonnell said any complaints would be investigated and members using "unacceptable" bullying or abuse on either side of the debate would face disciplinary action. Revealing that he had received a death threat for his anti-war stance, the shadow chancellor said: "All of that intimidation is not acceptable." One thing I would take issue with in Ms Mcdonagh's article for The Standard is that she says huge numbers of Labour Party members are leaving. It appears to me that actually the opposite is true. More and more and joining and although The Conservatives are ahead in the polls Labour are catching up.
The Labour Party was founded in 1900. In July 2008 The Labour membership fell to it's lowest level in the party's history. In a desperate bid to get rid of some of their £18 million debt the party were forced to slash its staff and spending. In an official submission to the Electoral Commission, Labour admitted that its membership at the end of 2007 was 176,891. That is scarcely 40 per cent of the 405,000 peak reached in 1997 when Tony Blair took office. Total Labour membership fell by nearly 6,000 during 2007, the year Gordon Brown replaced Mr Blair as leader. It is believed to have gone on falling. The Conservatives do not publish national membership figures, but in 2006 the party estimated its total at 290,000. According to the commission records, Labour had 213 staff at the end of 2007, down from 302 in the election year of 2005. Labour also recently announced that the party's annual spring conference would be cancelled next year as a money-saving measure. The party is continuing to struggle in the wake of the cash for honours scandal, when it emerged that both Labour and the Conservatives had got around election rules by taking loans at preferential rates from wealthy backers. Membership of the Labour Party has practically doubled since their catastrophic defeat in May's General Election, mostly due to the surprise election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Labour now has 370,658 members, its highest total since the halcyon days of 1997. Of these, 183,658 joined since May. The total number of Conservative members is thought to number around 150,000. When left wing candidate Corbyn threw his cap into the ring there was a quick surge of new £3 members, each of whom were then able to vote for him - or other candidates - as leader. However even following his election the number of new members has risen by another 50,000, (October 2015) Corbyn has faced a barrage of criticism from many sections of the media, the Conservatives and even some within his own party due to his uncompromising stance on issues like defence, terrorism and not singing the national anthem. However, even some of Corbyn's opponents seem agreed his emergence into the light after 32 years in the relative shade of Islington North has helped energise young people in particular. Corbyn has given his blessing to the "Momentum" movement which hopes to become a major force for social change. His maiden leadership speech in Brighton was relatively well-received but since then the Conservatives had a strong showing at their own conference in Manchester. Now Corbyn stands accused of snubbing the Queen by not attending the Privy Council. Corbyn claimed he'd already made other arrangements, and will join the council at a later date. However, according to an analysis of opinion polls carried out by New Statesman, the "Corbyn effect" doesn't seem to have had much impact on the wider electorate. Whilst the proportion of voters who said they would vote Labour has gone up, the gap between them and the Tories remains 2.3 per cent.
Vanessa Baird (of The New Internationalist) compiled ten reasons why bombing Syria is a bad idea... 1 Civilians will suffer most. The so-called Islamic State (IS) isn’t stupid. When Raqqa is bombed, IS fighters scurry into their tunnels or into areas of high civilian density. The idea of surgical strikes in this context is fanciful. Read what Syrians have to say about bombing. 2 There is no ‘end’ in sight, no plan for reconstruction or stabilization post bombing Syria. It can only deepen the chaos. Have we learned nothing from Iraq, from Libya? 3 Most military experts don’t think bombing will work – and certainly not without ground troops. French efforts, despite numerous sorties, have hardly been a resounding success. So if he is serious, David Cameron should be calling for permission to send thousands of British troops to fight in Syria. That, after all, is what it may come to if he gets his way with the vote this week. 4 David Cameron’s claim that there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ opposition fighters in Syria, ready to take the ground fight to IS, has been derided by experts. The opposition consists of at least 100 different groups, each with their own aims, not all of which can be trusted to oppose IS. 5 The call for Britain to join France in bombing IS in Syria is a direct result of the Paris attacks. At an emotional level it is entirely understandable. And a robust military response works wonders for the political fortunes of an unpopular leader – as President Hollande is now discovering. But neither provide a rational or moral argument for revenge bombing. 6 The recent globalization of IS activities, exemplified by the Paris attacks, follows a period when IS had been losing territory in Syria and Iraq. On this basis, Western bombing of IS in the region will not make Europe safer. Rather it is likely to recruit more sympathizers to violent Islamic extremism and increase the risk of devastating copy-cat attacks by autonomous cells of homegrown terrorists in the West. 7 The West is falling into a trap of IS’s making. The Salafist game plan is to draw the West into a war that will not end and that it cannot win; to degrade and bankrupt the enemy infidel. 8 The casting of IS as ‘enemy number one’ also suits the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has killed many more people than IS has, but is now presented as ‘maybe not so bad after all’. 9 The blunt instrument of Western bombing will obscure what really needs to be done to beat IS: to choke its supply line of funding, oil and sympathy. To do that involves following the money and the oil, investigating the activities of Western allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. 10 The Syrian civil war has become an immensely complex regional problem. The solution needs to be regional. Western military action is likely to be blundering at best. The West’s greatest ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is the source of most of IS’s foreign fighters. Despite its anti-IS rhetoric, the regime has only engaged in the most desultory and symbolic military action against IS in Syria. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to bomb neighbouring Yemen to pieces. But that’s another story – or is it? - See more at:
An Open letter to Stella Creasy posted by K Barlow on the 13th of Dec On Sunday December 6th 2015, I attended an event at which Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, attempted to justify to local residents – the majority of which, by her own admission, opposed the bombing of Syria – why she had voted with the Government in favour of extending air strikes. Stella’s rationale left a number of fundamental questions unanswered, and reproduced below is my email to her following the event: Dear Stella, I was at the meeting on Sunday and unfortunately (frustratingly) didn’t get the chance to ask a question. I felt, fundamentally, you failed to provide an adequate response to the key issue – namely what is the evidence that a bombing campaign is an effective, let alone moral, response to the situation in Syria. Much of what you said consisted of emphasising how evil and barbaric IS is, and how ‘this is an organisation that throws gays off the top of buildings’. That is not the issue – no one contests the brutality of IS’s actions, and simply re-stating over the over the ‘evil’ of IS does a disservice to those opposed to the bombing, and sets up a false dichotomy between dropping bombs and ‘doing nothing’. What is the actual empirical evidence (not supposition, speculation and assertion) that a bombing campaign will either help those in Syria or protect those in the West from terrorist attack? The ‘War on Terror’ has been waged for almost fifteen years now, and what is the evidence that any of the bombing campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have made any positive long-term (or indeed short-term) impact? What is irrefutable is that hundreds of thousands of civilian lives have been lost, millions displaced, and resentment against Western foreign policy has increased exponentially. As for the ‘intelligence’ you refer to that the bombing might help prevent attacks at home, as well as striking at the heart of IS’s leadership, you’ll have to be forgive me my scepticism. We were told that there was compelling military intelligence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, only for it later to transpire that this ‘evidence’ was based on the testimony of a single, unreliable source who fabricated everything. It also strikes me as curious that you said that it was partly the intelligence that, as an MP, you were privy to (and that we, as mere members of the public, didn’t have access to), that led you making your decision to support the bombing. Jeremy Corbyn, as Leader of the Opposition, would presumably have access to the highest level of intelligence available, and yet chose to oppose the bombing – which would suggest you have a pretty low opinion of his judgement. I was also unclear as to what you see the primary purpose of the bombing as being. Is it to protect those of us in the UK from terrorist attacks? Aside from my incredulity that bombing a foreign country will do anything to ‘protect’ us, that on the contrary will stoke resentment, that the actual perpetrators of atrocities in the West have been mainly citizens of the countries in which they occurred, the fact remains that the number of casualties of terrorism in Western countries is dwarfed by the number of innocent civilians killed by Western bombing campaigns. No matter what spin is put on it, bombing in Syria will kill vast number of innocent civilians. These are areas IS controls, where their fighters will be able to command shelter and refuge from bombing, and those who will bear the brunt of the destruction will be civilians who do not have that luxury. We will be killing a large number of civilians ‘over there’ in order to supposedly protect a smaller number of lives ‘over here’, in effect valuing the lives of those in Western countries far higher than those in Syria. Or do you see the primary purpose as protecting civilians in Syria? Again, for the reasons outlined above – added to the fact that no one, but no one, truly thinks the phantom army of 70,000 is going to turn up to fight in glorious unity anytime soon – I do not believe bombing will help relieve the suffering of the Syrian people, and will on the contrary exacerbate it. To quote Syrian refugee Ahmed, 17, interviewed in the Evening Standard: “The situation in Syria is really bad. If Britain starts bombing too, Daesh will escape but innocent people, children will die. When Nato planes come to Syria, the aircraft destroy everything. They are destroying people’s homes, and only a little bit Daesh. They become stronger, we see that.” Or perhaps you see the primary purpose as being to support our ‘allies’? At the meeting on Sunday, you said we should support the French government in their bombing campaign because a ‘socialist’ administration had asked for our help. I found this comment both disturbing and confusing – are you saying the political hue of the government in power of an allied country should guide whether we offer assistance or not? If the Front National were to gain power in France, would you then call for our support for bombing to be withdrawn? And why should we unquestioningly be expected to offer support to Western European governments simply because we consider them ‘allies’? Our solidarity should be extended to the everyday victims of terrorism, be that in Nigeria, Somalia, Syria or anywhere else in the world, not simply to the governments of countries in the West most like ‘us’. Finally, you repeat the usual mantra of IS being a ‘death cult’ (I’m not even sure what that actually means) that cannot be negotiated with. Whilst it is true that IS as an organisation isn’t open to negotiation, I do not think it helpful to assume that everyone who is purportedly a member of IS is beyond being reached, or is an irredeemable ‘terrorist’. There are men in areas occupied by IS who have the choice of joining IS or being killed. As we have seen recently, there are a number young women in the UK who have attempted to join IS. They may consider them stupid or na├»ve, we may consider their political views abhorrent, but do we really think that by these actions they are deserving of an extrajudicial death warrant? Do you really have such a nihilistic view of human nature that you believe no one who joins IS can ever again be convinced to leave? Certainly I don’t think those minds are likely to be changed through the bombing of innocent civilians. In sum, despite your assertion that you have explained your rationale for voting in favour of bombing, I still feel at a loss to understand what the evidence underpinning your decision was, beyond the fact you think IS is ‘evil’. Ken Barlow
Merry Christmas!

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