December 4: Benn emerges as a statesman – but long haul in Syria begins now

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NOW FOR the long haul after David Cameron warned that the operation to destroy Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, will require patience and persistence following the completion of the first wave of air strikes by RAF Tornado jets.

There will be no quick-fixes – Syria, Iraq and the wider region remain a cauldron of violence and extremism – but at least Britain can look its international allies in the eye after MPs decided in the wake of the Paris terror attacks to make a stand in the name of freedom, liberty and humanity.

That they did so was due, in no small part, to Mr Cameron being persuaded to back up air attacks with various political, diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives, and internationalists like Hilary Benn reminding Labour about its moral duty to stand up to fascism.

As the Shadow Foreign Secretary said in defiance of his own party leader Jeremy Corbyn: “Our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. My view is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.”

It was also so typical of the Leeds Central MP, and his magnanimity, that he wanted the focus yesterday to be on the skilled work of the RAF pilots now answering their country’s call rather than the ramifications of his speech on Labour’s future.

He is right – moving forward, it is essential that politicians, like Mr Benn, take part in a constructive dialogue with the Government so Britain does not become sucked into another unwinnable conflict. It’s also important that Labour, too, remembers the democratic right of MPs to vote for military intervention if they believe it is the best way of preserving the UK’s security. Talk of de-selections, and other recriminatory action, does not appear to correlate with the “kinder” politics promised by Mr Corbyn just a matter of weeks ago.

Moving forward

What is best deal for Yorkshire?

AT FACE value, the performance of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership over recent years has been significant and it would be churlish not to acknowledge this. Take Leeds city centre where the pace of development, the skyline is changing on a daily basis, stands in total contrast to the moribund building sites of just five years ago when confidence and investment had reached its lowest ebb. Though the national economic recovery has been a major factor, the new jobs and investment would not have been possible without the LEP, and others, persuading businesses to invest here rather than in rival regions.

Yet the more pertinent question, as the LEP accepts the plaudits, is what next for Leeds? Many of those closely allied to this venture will argue that this success and prosperity should not be put at risk by those who believe Yorkshire’s future interests are best served by political and business leaders from West, North and East Yorkshire joining forces. Others contend that the type of dynamism being enjoyed in Leeds needs to be replicated across the whole county if Yorkshire is to make the most of George Osborne’s devolution agenda and become an economic powerhouse in its own right.

It remains to be seen which viewpoint finally prevails – Yorkshire is the only major region still to determine its devolution arrangements and it can only be hoped that the delay is because those concerned are arguing behind-the-scenes for the best for deal for Leeds, and the wider county, rather than any narrow political interests. After all, the future prospects of both Leeds and Yorkshire have never been more intrinsically linked.

Cold comfort

‘Heat or eat’ dilemma for elderly

EVEN THOUGH this winter has, so far, been one of the warmest on record, it is cold comfort to those 750,000 pensioners who have to choose between eating each day or heating their home. They should not have to bank on the vagaries of the British weather for this choice to be made marginally less invidious.

Yet, while the Government will contend, with good reason, that it has gone out of its way to protect pensioner benefits in successive Budgets, today’s report by the Independent Age charity shows that far more advice and assistance needs to be targeted at those who will suffer in silence because they do not want to be a burden to relatives or the public purse.

The hallmark of a civilised society is the way it treats the elderly. Never has this been more important. And, if money is a problem, then the public finances need to recalibrated still further so the elderly, people who have paid taxes for the entirety of their working lives, can live with a degree of dignity and comfort in their final years.