Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

We need to talk about Syria

The foreign secretary updated the House this week on the situation in Syria and the whole House was appalled to learn that the Syrian government appears to be escalating repression.

The Syrian government is responsible for widespread human rights crimes including the deliberate targeting of civilians and journalists.

Across the region tens of thousands have been killed demanding the freedom that we in this country take for granted.

At Business Questions on Thursday I raised this issue. I said that we fully support the call by the United Nations secretary general for an immediate end to the violence and asked the leader of the House find time for a debate on the Middle East so that we can consider urgently the support we give to those who are battling against brutal dictatorship.

Such a debate would give us the opportunity to praise the outstanding journalism that has meant the crimes of the Syrian government have not gone un-recorded.

I said in the chamber that in Syria we have seen journalism at its very best but this week at the Leveson Inquiry we have heard more about   the worst excesses of some sections of the press.

The Conservative mayor of London, who is in charge of the Metropolitan Police, said last year that stories of illegal phone hacking were ‘codswallop’. This week he has argued that the ‘caravan should move on’.

Joining in, the Conservative education secretary said that the Leveson Inquiry was having a ‘chilling effect’ on press freedom.

I told the House that this is beginning to look like a systematic attempt to undermine the inquiry and pre-empt the outcome.

While some sections of the press may be trying to brow beat Lord Leveson, I asked the leader of the House if he agrees with me that Conservative cabinet members and the Conservative mayor of London should not join in.

Meanwhile the spectacle surrounding the health bill continued to plague the government this week when the deputy prime minister, briefed Liberal Democrat peers, on the record, that the health bill needed amending to stop Conservative ministers privatising the NHS.

His on the record briefing has left many of us scratching our heads because as I pointed out on Thursday, it was the deputy prime minister who wrote the forward to the health white paper, he then championed the original bill, then voted for it, he then championed the pause and rethink, championed the revised bill and now he is championing the revision of the revision of the bill.
This cynical choreography won’t be taken seriously by the public.

If he really wanted to the deputy prime minister could stop the health bill. Why on earth hasn’t he?

Meanwhile a Conservative health secretary is proving again that you can never trust the Tories with the NHS.


Angela Eagle is MP for Wallsey, shadow leader of the Commons and writes the weekly Business of Parliament column for Progress

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Angela Eagle MP

is MP for Wallasey

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