November 17: Making peace with the enemy

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Cameron’s quandary over Syria

THE impact of the Paris terror attacks on Britain can me measured by the number of public buildings that have been illuminated with the French Tricolore as shining symbols of solidarity. It will be the same at Wembley tonight when the English and French football teams meet, and where the outcome will be of secondary importance to the match taking place in defiance of those monsters who perpetuated this atrocity.

However, it is also important that the gestures of goodwill witnessed in recent days, all the more powerful because of their spontaneity, help to stiffen the resolve of those statesmen whose collective failure of leadership has contributed to a dangerous vacuum in Syria and Iraq that is being ruthlessly exploited by the “Islamic State” and its acolytes.

Perhaps the one hope – and it is only a glimmer – is that the Paris bloodbath, together with the downing of a Russian aircraft in another suspected IS attack on world liberty, has actually led to a rapprochement of sorts between the West and Russia which culminated with David Cameron’s face-to-face talks with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit. Despite Britain, and others, having every reason to be suspicious of Mr Putin’s motives, Russia is now intrinsically linked to the fate of Syria – the fundamental difference is whether Bashar al-Assad should have the chance to be involved in any peace settlement when his regime stands accused of slaughtering its own people.

This leaves Mr Cameron in a quandary. He has repeatedly said that a tyrant like Assad should have no role in Syria’s future. Yet, given that the Prime Minister prides himself on being a democrat, shouldn’t this be for the Syrian people to decide? It is a very uncomfortable fact that the Prime Minister – and his colleagues – might have to deal with an antagonistic Russia or a dictator as odious as Assad if the Islamic State’s influence is to be neutralised. It’s the same with air strikes. If Parliament backs military action in Syria, will bombing raids make a lasting peace more or less likely to bring about?

They are questions that will only become more invidious as names, faces and stories are put to the innocent people gunned down in Paris. Difficult though they are, the one abiding lesson from the Iraq and Afghanistan missions is that military action will only work if there is a coherent political strategy – even if this means Britain doing business with sworn enemies. Like it or not, nothing should be ruled out.

EU and dairy crisis: Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer

IT is reassuring, as support grows for The Yorkshire Post’s Clearly British campaign, that George Eustice, the Farming Minister, recognises the importance of ‘country of origin’ labelling on dairy produce. It is also welcome that he has begun a dialogue, within days of the campaign’s launch, with the major supermarkets to be far more transparent with their labelling practices – it is plainly wrong for cheese to be sold as ‘British’ when it has been produced with imported milk.

However, Mr Eustice should not yield any ground to the European Commission which appears reluctant to embrace new laws, despite a majority of EU consumers appearing to favour ‘country of origin’ labelling. In case it has escaped the Minister’s attention, Britain is currently renegotiating its relationship in the European Union and this is one area where some positive action from Brussels might help the Government, and Yes campaigners, to make the case for continued EU membership.

After all, Europe’s leaders did eventually relent over meat labelling and there’s no reason for similar principles not to be applied to dairy produce like cheese and yoghurt. Over to you, Minister.

Oarsome foursome: York mums take on the Atlantic

EVEN though Sir Steve Redgrave’s historic fifth Olympic gold medal in the coxed four at the Sydney Olympics remains the pinnacle of rowing, even Britain’s Knight of the water would be inspired by the ‘oarsome foursome’ of Janette Benaddi, Helen Butters, Frances Davies and Niki Doeg.

This motley crew of supermums from York, all relatively recent converts to the sport, are preparing to leave their families behind as they bid to become to the oldest female crew to successfully row the Atlantic.

Their determination to complete the mission, while raising money for cancer care charity Maggie’s and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, is simply oar-inspiring and indicative of the power of individuals to make a difference.