Bishop attacks Iraq vacuum

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BY linking the advance of poisonous ideology of Islamic State extremists to the future safety of Britain, and warning that the West faces a “generational struggle” for the liberty of the world, is David Cameron preparing the ground for Britain to escalate its military operations in Iraq?

He would not be the first leader in modern times to do so; national security was used by Tony Blair to justify Saddam Hussein’s overthrow and the carnage that followed. Yet Downing Street’s mixed messages over foreign policy, and Britain’s role in the role as an extremist caliphate takes root in Syria and Iraq, do not inspire confidence.

Twelve months ago, Parliament was recalled to authorise Mr Cameron’s plan for military force to be used in Syria to halt the atrocities being committed by Bashar-al-Hassad’s regime. This plan was thwarted by MPs.

The past week saw Britain on the brink of launching extensive operations to protect those trapped on Mount Sinjar before this rescue mission appeared to be scaled back at the 11th hour. However, Michael Fallon, the recently-appointed Defence Secretary, appeared to suggest over the weekend that Britain’s role was, in fact, an extensive one as reports emerged of the latest massacre against the defenceless Yezidis. Now Britain is arming the Kurds – but there is still no answer to questions, raised by senior clergy in the Lords last month, about whether this country should provide a sanctuary to Christians fleeing persecution.

While the Prime Minister is hamstrung by Mr Blair’s legacy, this is no justification for the current vacuum and impression that the Government is putting the whims of pre-election focus groups before this country’s longstanding obligations as a global power. No wonder Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, felt moved to ask Mr Cameron: “Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK Government’s response to both the humanitarian situation and what IS is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism.”

The Prime Minister’s response is awaited 
with interest, not 
least his definition of Britain’s foreign policy principles in a rapidly changing world.

Cancer challenge

DRAMATIC decline in cancer death-rates is testament to medical advances and the growing ability of the National Health Service to diagnose, and treat, the disease before it becomes even more pernicious.

However there is no room for complacency, as the latest figures from Cancer Research UK show. Early diagnosis – and the availability of life-enhancing drugs in the most serious cases – are crucial if this welcome progress is to be maintained.

This issue also goes to the heart of The Yorkshire Post’s public debate on the future of the NHS, and how the expectations of the public can be met in the most of challenging financial circumstances.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s intention is to ‘name and shame’ those GPs if they don’t refer patients for tests which will determine whether their illness, or fatigue, is, in fact, the early onset of cancer.

Yet the Minister may need a more sophisticated approach – the danger is that family doctors choose to refer each and every patient for further examination and that this, in turns, clogs up the NHS and leads to individuals with life-threatening cancer having to wait longer for a diagnosis. Is that what Mr Hunt intends?

Resilience of Root

THE timeless adage ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ came to mind as Joe Root leapt into the air to celebrate his third Test century of the summer. His youthful effervescence – his face was a picture of boyish delight – could not have provided a greater contrast to his personal despondency in Australia last winter when the Yorkshire batsman lost his form, and place, in the England side.

Sterner challenges await – Geoffrey Boycott’s mother would have fancied her chances against this Indian attack – but Wisden will still show that the young Tyke is the third England batsman, after Wally Hammond and Peter May, to score a half-century in every Test of a five-match series.

This success, however, is testament to Root’s resilience. A chippy character who may mature into captaincy material, he is at his happiest when at the crease perfecting his mercurial cover drive which has become a thing of beauty. Long may this run of form continue.

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