November 28: Labour and Corbyn feud over Syria as France grieves

THE contrast could not have been more striking.

As Francois Hollande, emotion etched across his face and sat in solitary isolation, led France in solemn tribute to the victims of the Paris terror atrocity and gave the appearance of a president carrying the weight of the world on his sagging shoulders, a now dysfunctional Labour party was at loggerheads over its stance on global terrorism and whether it should back RAF airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

President Hollande deserves credit for the fortitude that he has shown since France’s equivalent 9/11 two weeks ago– and for his attempts to bring the international community together in order to form a co-ordinate policy against IS and its poisonous ideology which poses such a threat to the liberty of all, Muslims included. As he struggled to hold back the tears, even his staunchest opponents acknowledged his statesmanship.

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If only the same could be said about the Labour party here after David Cameron went out of his way to build a consensus, and answer the Opposition’s legitimate and justifiable concerns, about the UK’s involvement in Syria. Of course, it should be acknowledged that Jeremy Corbyn is not the only person to be in an invidious position; some on the political right are also deeply uncomfortable about airstrikes, despite the PM saying that Britain should not sub-contract its national security obligations.

However this does not excuse Mr Corbyn, a pacifist, for the cack-handed manner in which he tried to bounce his Shadow Cabinet – and party – into opposing British involvement without fully considering the PM’s statement to Parliament. In doing so, he allowed the undignified struggle for Labour’s soul to take precedence over the more important question – should UK forces be re-deployed to the Middle East?

On borrowed time: Jeremy Hunt and the NHS

IT IS hardly surprising that the Department of Health stopped the weekly publication of data showing A&E waiting times – it has spared Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt from coming under even greater pressure. This is the sole conclusion which can be drawn from the performance of 40 hospital trusts, this dismal data makes grim reading. Even though the Government expects 95 per cent of casualty patients to be seen within four hours, this number has dropped from 92 to 88 per cent before the cold weather triggers the annual winter beds crisis.

Of course Mr Hunt will say that the Government listened to the public’s concerns, hence the additional money included in the Autumn Statement. However he needs to be reminded that this funding is for new staff so the NHS can operate more effectively on a 24/7 basis rather than problems associated so-called ‘bed-blocking’ – the inability of hospitals to discharge elderly patients because of shortcomings in community care, and which is exacerbating the may challenges facing A&E units.

With junior doctors braced for unprecedented strike action, and dozens of East Riding GPs accusing the Health Secretary of not listening, it pains The Yorkshire Post to have to repeat the conclusions of its editorial seven days ago on the NHS – Mr Hunt is living on borrowed time and is only being saved from further calls to resign by a weak Labour opposition. After all, who is the Shadow Health Secretary – and has anyone seen, or heard, from them? In case Labour has totally forgotten its responsibilities, effective governance is invariably linked to equally effective scrutiny.

Action stations: 10-year railway wait nearly over

BETTER late than never – just like the trains. That will be the reaction of many travellers to news that a date has been set – leaves on the line and other sundry excuses permitting – for the opening of West Yorkshire’s newest railway station.

Ten years after plans for a station at Apperley Bridge were unveiled, the station will finally be up and running on December 13 serving passengers travelling from Leeds to Bradford Forster Square and Skipton. It will be followed by a new stop at Kirkstall Forge which has taken an equally long
time to receive the green light.

The question now is whether there are sufficient rolling stock to accommodate the additional passengers – the Airedale and Wharfedale lines remain some of the most overcrowded in the region, with travellers repeatedly let down by the railway industry’s inability to show any urgency when working with partners and local communities.

How ironic that it is likely to be standing room only when trains do finally stop at Apperley Bridge after such a long wait.