September 8: Syria airstrike defended by PM

THE Prime Minister’s statement on Britain’s response to the refugee crisis was overshadowed by the revelation that two Islamic State fighters from Britain were killed by an RAF drone strike in Syria after the intelligence services obtained chilling information about an imminent terrorist atrocity in this country, and had to act in both the national interest and self-defence.

David Cameron’s sombre statement – at least six terrorist attacks against the UK have been foiled in the past 12 months – demonstrated that the most onerous duty facing any Prime Minister is “to keep the British people safe” and it is clear that this decision was not taken lightly. Not only did the Government go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the operation’s legality, but no civilians were killed in the attack.

Inevitably many will regard the Government’s actions as the precursor to British forces taking part in further military action in Syria, although it will not be possible for this to happen without a Parliamentary mandate and it is still doubtful whether Mr Cameron will be able to persuade sufficient MPs to back such a strategy.

That said, Syria’s fate does hold the key to the largest mass movement of mankind since the end of World War Two as Europe’s borders become overwhelmed by those seeking to flee from tyranny in the Middle East and North Africa. As ISIS increases its brutal grip on the region, the threat is now comparable to the dangers that were posed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s tyranny in Iraq.

Yet here is the dilemma facing Mr Cameron. If the Government authorises military action, it could lead to even more young Muslims from these shores being radicalised and joining the struggle in Syria. If the Prime Minister does not act, he could jeoparise Britain’s national security if an another atrocity is committed. His position is that invidious.

The jobs agenda

Why enterprise must come first

THE Government will contend that the latest employment survey by recruitment firm Manpower, and which reveals the extent to which jobs growth in Yorkshire is lagging behind the rest of the country, is a vindication of the Northern Powerhouse strategy – and the need to empower this region’s cities so they can shape the economic landscape.

Yet, while this defence is entirely logical, it does overlook the fact that the national economic recovery is still a fragile one and that Chancellor George Osborne is struggling to generate the levels of growth that will be required to offset the next tranche of public sector efficiency savings.

This report is also another reminder that the Government’s devolution policies do still require real political and financial commitment if cities like Leeds and Sheffield are to become economic powerhouses. It is imperative that this does not become a political wheeze in which responsibility for past decisions not to invest sufficiently in the region’s transport network passes from the Treasury to

an elected mayor who then becomes Mr Osborne’s “fall guy”.

However the former Thatcherite Minister John Redwood makes a key point when he says the current debate about the governance must not stand in the way of the need to create a thriving business environment which enables private industry to create the jobs of the future – the challenge is making sure that the business sector, and specifically those individuals who know how to generate growth, play a more prominent role in this process. They need to – for the greater good of all.

The tomato test

Foul play in the greenhouses...

HOW times change – and not always for the better. Genteel gatherings like Harrogate Autumn Flower Show have become so competitive that DNA testing is being introduced to ensure that this year’s top tomatoes have not received artificial growth stimulants. Whatever next? Inspectors turning up in greenhouses, or to allotment plots, to submit prize exhibits to the type of random testing which is now commonplace in sport?

It would be sad if horticulture came to this. These are shows which represented the best of good manners before their reputation was tarnished by cries of foul play from once reserved individuals who responded to defeat in the past with a stiff upper lip. Now the levels of suspicion threatens to rival the recent race for sprint supremacy between Usain Bolt – the poster boy of world athletics – and convicted cheat Justin Gatlin.

Whatever happened to the once timeless adage about the taking part being all that mattered?