June 29: The search for common resolve in Tunisia

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THE GROWING list of British victims of the appalling attack on a Tunisian tourist beach has made this the most devastating mass murder of UK citizens since the July 7 bombings a decade ago.

That fact alone should be reason enough for the Government to ensure that it takes decisive action against the growing Islamist threat to this country. Ministers cannot simply express their shock and sympathy and then do nothing in the hope that this type of outrage will not happen again. Because, sooner or later, it will.

Four years ago, David Cameron was eloquent in his support of North Africa’s so-called Arab Spring and decisive in his support for the rebels who overthrew Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Yet now he appears as confused and helpless as all his fellow Western leaders, powerless to prevent the self-styled “Islamic State” from expanding its Middle Eastern base, inspiring a new generation of suicide bombers and enticing British Muslims to leave their homes in places such as Bradford and Dewsbury and embrace its murderous ideology.

Of course, no one will deny that the situation is deeply complex. “Islamic State” is not only engaged in its unholy war with the West, it is also at the vanguard of a violent dispute between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the origins of which go back for centuries.

But Mr Cameron and his fellow leaders cannot afford to use these complexities as an excuse for inaction. The Prime Minister’s clear priority is the protection of UK citizens, both at home and abroad.

This means finding new ways to counter the indoctrination of British Muslims. But it also means Britain and its allies finding a common resolve to stem the growth of “Islamic State”, restore order in Libya and end the poisonous civil war in Syria which is feeding this new Islamist threat. No one can pretend that these are simple tasks. But to save British lives, they must be pursued.

Northern doubt

GIVEN THE grievous way that this region has been let down by the shelving of two transport plans that were key to the North’s economic recovery, it is hardly surprising that business leaders are demanding that the Chancellor puts his money where his mouth is in next month’s Budget.

George Osborne has been waxing lyrical about his Northern Powerhouse scheme for so long now that it was genuinely believed that the Government was committed to making major investments in Yorkshire’s transport infrastructure as part of its plan for stimulating dynamic economic growth in the North.

However, by halting plans to electrify both the Midland Mainline connecting Sheffield to London and the trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester, the Government has sown doubt among all the scheme’s supporters in this region.

After all, if Ministers can suddenly halt key parts of the scheme, what stock should business leaders give to the Government’s many other promises? Now, every time that Mr Osborne opens his mouth on the subject of the Northern Powerhouse, there will be a suspicion that it is little more than a cynical political ploy.

This is why those business leaders surveyed by the IPPR North think-tank are right to demand specific spending commitments in the July 8 Budget. With both London and Scotland also vying for Government funds, Mr Osborne must prove now that his commitment to the North is genuine.

Branson’s fears

SIR RICHARD Branson, like the leaders of many multi-national businesses, is understandably worried about the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union.

It is crucial, however, that in his attempt to reform the way the EU works, David Cameron listens not only to the voices of big business but also to those smaller businessmen who feel overwhelmed by the amount of Brussels-inspired regulations imposed with the minimum of democratic accountability.

Sir Richard, however, is clearly an EU zealot. Not only does he want Britain in the Union, he also wants this country to adopt the euro.

Yet, with Greece on the brink of financial chaos 
as it approaches a possible exit from the euro,
it is palpably clear that 
the single currency has failed.

And while no one should welcome the problems that Grexit would bring, if it results in a new, more pragmatic outlook pervading the EU, as opposed to the blinkered ideology of ever-closer union, it could yet aid Britain in its attempts to forge a new relationship with its European partners.