Yvonne Ridley: Aleppo burns as Westminster orchestrates a farce and the media plays along

CommonSpace columnist Yvonne Ridley lambasts Westminster politicians for their behaviour during this week's emergency debate in the House of Commons on Syria

AS the last of Bashar al-Assad's barrel bombs exploded in the ruins of Aleppo, the Palace of Westminster swung into action after Tory MP Andrew Mitchell was granted his emergency debate.

Sadly the House of Parliament resembled more a House of Hypocrites as it lumbered into a carefully orchestrated traditional procedure that was probably more rehearsed than the finals of the X Factor.

Whatever critics say about Holyrood, most of the debates are spontaneous and exchanges lively, but the theatrics of Westminster provide yet another reason for Scottish voters to bring the curtain down on this farce by renewing the calls for independence.

The theatrics of Westminster provide yet another reason for Scottish voters to bring the curtain down on this farce by renewing the calls for independence.

Before a single aye or no was taken, those of us who are jaded by the inner workings of Westminster knew the outcome - there would be absolutely no impact beyond the smug, self important expressions that have come to define the front benches in the London-based parliament.

There was lots of self flagellation, naval gazing and crocodile tears as one MP after another stood up to blame themselves and each other for the wretched state of affairs in Syria's largest city.

Bemoaning past events, former chancellor George Osborne bellowed: "The tragedy in Aleppo did not come out of a vacuum, it was created by a vacuum, a vacuum of Western leadership, of American leadership, of British leadership. 

"I take responsibility as someone who sat on the national security council throughout those years. Parliament should take its responsibility for what it prevented being done and there were multiple opportunities to intervene."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was uncharacteristically as dull as ditch water as he ruled out air drops of aid, saying it was too dangerous to fly into airspace controlled by Russia and Syria and that UK planes would be sitting ducks. 

There was lots of self flagellation, naval gazing and crocodile tears as one MP after another stood up to blame themselves and each other for the wretched state of affairs in Syria's largest city.

Johnson said the slaughter in eastern Aleppo "shames us all" and promised that the government was pulling every diplomatic lever at its disposal, but failed to elaborate.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour had condemned the Kremlin and Assad for their actions in eastern Aleppo. "We must ensure they are one day held to account, while we equally condemn Iran and Hezbollah for the role they have played in this massacre. It was a global collective failure, every bit as great as ... Srebrenica," she said. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sat uncomfortably for a few minutes until she finished and then he left the chamber without uttering a word, leaving himself wide open to more criticism.

Prime Minister Theresa May was a no show, and where was star performer Hilary Benn whose words on Syria previously had set Westminster ablaze? He was another no show; a reflection, perhaps, on how he rated the importance of yesterday's debate. 

He could've taken centre stage again, winning plaudits from both sides of the chamber while annoying the hell out of Corbyn, but the prospect of yet another emergency debate may have proved too much.

Prime Minister Theresa May was a no show, and where was star performer Hilary Benn whose words on Syria previously had set Westminster ablaze?

Tory after Tory rose to their feet to express regret they'd not voted with then PM David Cameron back in August 2013 to bomb Syria earlier. And Labour also got in the act as Blairites such as Ben Bradshaw, Mike Gapes, James Woodcock and the equally unremarkable Stephen Doughty put on their most pained expressions of sorrow for what was unfolding in Aleppo.

At one point it was like a throwback to the Blair days when it was hard to tell who was a Tory and who was Tory Lite. Woodcock, never one to miss an opportunity to kick his own party in the guts, didn't help when he ingratiated himself by praising Osborne saying: "He gave the speech that should have been made from our despatch box and he showed a level of understanding about these issues which shows that, which makes me hope very much that he has a future in his party."  

Yes, you heard right. A Labour MP praising the former Tory Chancellor and then he took time out to give his own party a good kicking by referring to Labour's position in 2013, saying: "I still feel sick at the idea of the then leader of the opposition going from that vote into the whips’ office and congratulating himself and them on stopping a war, when look what is happening today and look what’s happened over the last three years." No wonder Corbyn didn't hang around to listen to that.

Other speeches were also excruciatingly embarrassing, stilted and not spontaneous. Although it was called an 'emergency debate' everything was co-ordinated and virtually scripted in advance by the Speaker's team who essentially knew who and in what order he would call MPs. 

The list and order of speakers would have been drawn up earlier in the day by the unelected mandarins in his office. Apparently tradition dictates there is a pecking order starting with the high and mighty from the front benches to veterans and grandees before moving on to the newbies.

Perhaps the best soundbite of the day, when it came, was not original, but Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady's "bread-not-bombs" resonated around the chamber and into Twitterland as it emerged there had been no food delivered to besieged Aleppo for seven months.

By the time the perceived great and good had spoken there was little time left for the leader of Welsh party Plaid Cymru Hywel Williams to choose a few carefully selected words before few members of the SNP were given time to speak. 

Tommy Shepherd said the stated objective of "cutting off the head" of Daesh/Isis, while providing air support for 70,000 ground forces as part of a co-ordinated military action, had failed.

Perhaps the best soundbite of the day, when it came, was not original, but Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady's "bread-not-bombs" resonated around the chamber and into Twitterland as it emerged there had been no food delivered to besieged Aleppo for seven months.

Even the interventions weren't that spontaneous as much of these parliamentary interruptions are agreed between MPs' offices in advance - obviously no one told the SNP's Grady who refused to give way to another MP as he made his contribution. 

It's quite clear the SNP refuse to take part in these superficial games at Westminster which are all about top show or, as my late great aunt Lizzie would bluntly observe, "all fur coat and no knickers".

It's quite clear the SNP refuse to take part in these superficial games at Westminster which are all about top show or, as my late great aunt Lizzie would bluntly observe, "all fur coat and no knickers".

The good people of Aleppo deserved better than this grotesque pantomime on Tuesday and so do those of us living in Scotland. How much longer do we have to watch this Westminster charade and why does the mainstream media play along with the farce?

Picture courtesy of .craig

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Comments

UCSvet

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 21:37

As the liberation of Aleppo nears, the propaganda emanating from the mouthpieces of the Washington Consensus climbs to fever pitch. Even more dangerously Washington has dispatched 300 "specialist advisors" to "support" Iraqi and Turkish forces in their efforts to oust Daesh from the city of Rakki. This is exactly how the war in Vietnam began with one important difference. American forces were at least invited in by the puppet regime then governing South Vietnam. Did anyone request any such intervention this time?
Whatever is said about Russian and Iranian forces in Syria, they are there with the express permission of the legitimate government of Syria. Anyone who thinks thinks that the anti Assad forces somehow represent the forces of light are deluding themselves. This is an attempted regime change plain and simple. This is not permissible under international law. You are not allowed to topple your neighbours governments simply because you don't like them. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya all deserved the protection of International Law but were denied it.
If the West wants to end the suffering of the people of Aleppo they only have to lift the sanctions against the Syrian government and impose them on the countries who have covertly supported Isis and Daesh.
No doubt my comments will be met by a blizzard of claims of heinous war crimes committed by the Assad regime and their Russian allies. Let us remember that Assad has witnessed over a long period of time fellow Arab leaders being vilified, hunted down and murdered. His government knew what lengths their enemies were prepared to go. People would also do well to remember that during the dark days of the World War Two our own dear brave leaders gave instructions for poisoned gas to be manufactured here in Scotland and for Anthrax to be tested on the island of Gruinard. The argument then, was desperate times demanded desperate measures but perhaps that only applies to we "civilised christian bastions of democracy"
Lets demand that our government lift sanctions against Assad then we can deliver shiploads of food and medical supplies to truly help the suffering people of Syria.

SoupCruncher

Thu, 12/15/2016 - 08:41

Jams O'Donnell

Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:34

USCvet - you have outlined the situation exactly as it is. There is much excitement now about the civilians in Aleppo, but before, when the terrorists took it over, and looked like they might win, no consideration at all was given to these same civilians - they were expendable, as long as Assad was being beaten.

Meanwhile, The Saudi's kill large swathes of civilians in Yemen, using UK supplied cluster bombs, and there is merely the odd murmur that this might not be entirely a good thing, (but we must keep BAE Systems workers in jobs, and the shareholders in ready cash).

Hypocrisy never goes away.

FOTORABIA

Fri, 12/23/2016 - 16:22

It should also be noted that Yvonne has shown active support for so called journalists who are embedded with Al Qaeda..Bilal Kareem...her recent video she has been posting of him is of grinning and laughing with a recognised German member of Al Qaeda..she talks a lot about Syria altho never having been there of recent..she does not recognise the word secular..she has described Assad as Hitler..which is offensive in the sense it trivilises the holocaust. She has stood and excused renowned terrorists..as if to create the impression that their behaviour is merely misunderstood. She has routinely posted completely uncorrobated events to try and make the evacuation of Aleppo as being a complete massacre which it was not...her sources are 'citizen activists' due to the fact that most journalists have been terrified out of the area due to kidnapping and murder.One of her sources posted an image mourning the loss of one of the terrorist leaders.Yvonne also openly discredits any other journalist who presents the opposite view to her own..waving her NUJ card around as if that was the perfect credential for telling the truth.Her open support for the Muslim Brotherhood who have a decades long history of terror campaigns within Syria is also certainly questionable. Basically..her perspective should be seen as total bias and another example of the age of perfect misinformation that we live in.She as a journalist should be showing neutrality..which she has obviously completely lost the plot on.

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