June 30: PM responds to Tunisia terror

THE sombre scenes in the House of Commons were a microcosm of the national anguish after at least 18 British holiday-makers were shot dead, and dozens more badly injured, in the beach massacre at the once idyllic Tunisian resort of Sousse.

The most brutal terrorist atrocity perpetuated against Britons since the horror of the 7/7 London suicide bombings of a decade ago, the immediate priority is one of logistics and the repatriation of the deceased, the seriously injured and all those tourists who want to return home at the earliest opportunity. On this, there is unanimity ahead of a minute’s reflection by the whole country this Friday.

There was also a consensus when David Cameron declared that “the terrorists will not win” and how the country will work with others to deliver “this evil” – Britain, and Western allies, need to remain resolute and not be intimidated by those IS-inspired fanatics who are so desperate to impose their warped ideology on others that they’re prepared to slaughter innocent and defenceless people whose sun-loungers had to become makeshift stretchers. If the Prime Minister means UK forces stepping up military intervention in Syria and Iraq, he will need to demonstrate how this will be more effective than previous strategies.

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However there has, in recent times, been a distinct lack of urgency to diplomatic endeavours to put in place a credible strategy to defeat IS and its acolytes – Mr Cameron and his international colleagues owe it to the victims of Sousse, and other terrorist atrocities, to come up with an effective policy that is more substantive than the standard soundbites.

Not only is this critical to protecting the liberty of all, but it is also imperative if the fledgling democracy of Tunisia – a country whose economy is dependent on a flourishing tourism history – remains a beacon of hope in a troubled world and does not surrender its hard-won gains in the Arab Spring.

A rural route map

Evolution rather than revolution

IN the wake of Lancashire county councillors rejecting a controversial fracking plan that had been previously recommended for approval by senior officials, all eyes will be on the North York Moors National Park Authority when it meets today to consider proposals to create a potash mine near Whitby.

Like energy firm Cuadrilla’s application in the North West, the Sirius Minerals scheme has been equally contentious as the concerns of environmentalists are balanced against the views of those who believe such schemes are a necessary price if the rural economy is to be sustainable for future generations.

It is a difficult dilemma that goes to the heart of the growing debate about the future of this region’s national parks, and how conflicting viewpoints on the economy and environment can be reconciled without detracting from the picture-postcard scenery that remains some of the finest in the world, and which provided such a vivid backdrop to the Tour de France’s opening stages exactly 12 months ago.

Though this will be difficult for some to accept, countryside communities cannot afford to stand still. They’re not museum pieces and do need to move with the times to prevent the pockets of poverty blighting some parishes from becoming even deeper due to a lack of employment opportunities or affordable housing. In this regard, new development will make it easier to sustain facilities, but it needs to be carried out sympathetically. As such, evolution rather than revolution still offers the best route map for those near-sleepy villages where time has now caught up.

Janner justice

New landmark for abuse victims

THE welcome move to reverse the decision not to prosecute veteran Labour peer Greville Janner over historic child sex abuse allegations should be viewed, irrespective of the final outcome, as a landmark for victims of crime and all those who campaign on their behalf.

Despite New Labour promising to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system when Tony Blair came to power in 1997, progress remains painfully slow and public confidence was not helped by Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, initially ruling that 86-year-old Janner’s health precluded him from standing trial.

As more people have the courage to come forward and report horrific allegations of abuse dating back to their childhood, the expectation now is for these cases to be thoroughly investigated and prosecutions pursued if there is sufficient evidence. However, it is difficult to see how this is possible with Ms Saunders still in post.