The unexpected return to Parliament last Tuesday was clearly necessary given what took place in Afghanistan a few days earlier. Many of the people who spoke set out legitimate calls for the Government to do more in terms of actions and engagements with NATO and the USA. There was also a clear call for an independent enquiry to review the last 20 years. Our government’s failure to engage with Joe Biden when he first stated that he was adopting the approach set out by Donald Trump was clearly one significant element. Another was a failure for them to use NATO to obtain an alternative approach as the USA set out to withdraw its team. The previous Prime Minister asked her successor
will he please set out when he first spoke personally to Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of NATO, to discuss with him the possibility of putting together an alliance of other forces in order to replace American support in Afghanistan?
Johnsons response was very disturbing
I spoke to Secretary-General Stoltenberg only the other day about NATO’s continuing role in Afghanistan
and that was all he had to say!
Along with the failing of our government to address the USA and NATO, the last few days have also been a very clear demonstration of their appalling attitude towards asylum seeking. It is very sad that several local MPs have also spoken up about what they call as illegal immigration or asylum seeking. Back in May Tim Loughton stated
I welcome the Home Secretary’s comment that if someone comes by an illegal route, they are not treated on a par with someone who has applied legitimately and through legal means such as refugee agencies and refugee camps.
It is very clear that many of the people who are now fleeing from Afghanistan because of the threats to their lives will not aim towards a refugee camp or agencies. They will simply travel as fast and in what they consider to be the best way to try to reach the place they consider the best for them and their family. This is indeed how many other people have travelled over the last few decades. Sadly, along with Tim, the other Sussex MPs who have referred to immigrants “being illegal” in the last year are Henry Smith, Sally-Ann Hart and Caroline Ansell. We need all of them to reflect on their recent use of this language and to improve their understandings. Thankfully Sally-Ann and Caroline have not been as frequent as Tim and Henry.
Last Tuesday in the House of Commons there were a significant number of MPs who took part in the Afghanistan debate. It was arguably the first significant debate in the House of Commons since before COVID in terms of the numbers of people attending and also the lack of distancing and facemasks. It was also the longest debate I have read for a long time. It began at 9.38am and ended at 5pm and there was no evidence of a break for lunch. The text that can be obtained from Hansard did list the people who spoke and the words they used. Because there was no voting it is not clear who else took part in the session but it appeared that Tim Loughton and Peter Bottomley were the only MPs from West Sussex and Nusrat Ghani was the only MP from East Sussex. There were two MPs from Brighton and Hove who were Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Caroline Lucas and indeed Caroline both spoke the longest and indeed she spoke three times. Whatever our own views may be, the fact that these five MPs took part in this very significant day is something we should all be proud of. Perhaps the other MPs will consider using their various communication networks to let people know what their views are, even if that is less public than what took place.
Some of the comments were very significant. Tim referred to how Joe Biden was wrong, Peter spoke up for the people who are part of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force and indeed Lloyd spoke about the same people in a very personal way. Nusrat also spoke up for people in the armed forces and she also paid tribute to the women and men who have been brutalised in the past by the Taliban. However the most significant comment came from Caroline Lucas who stated
this disaster must mark a turning point for our failed asylum system, in particular by getting rid of the so-called hostile environment and the Nationality and Borders Bill, under which a women fleeing the Taliban with her children on a boat across the channel would be criminalised?
Let us hope that this will be adopted by all other MPs including the members of the Government.