Two things I gave up in the New Year after many years were smoking and reading the London Evening Standard. I used to pick up the newspaper at the tube station on the journey from work back to the sticks.
The newspaper over the last year has got worse in many ways, not least the reporting of Syria and foreign affairs. It’s that bad that there should be an Off-Evening Standard – set up by people who read it so Londoners don’t have to.
The Evening Standard is one of those newspapers which is so inept or/and dishonest on these matters it always forces me to pick up my pen and write just to get it out of my system. So in a way it’s a source of negative inspiration for my writing and last year I wrote this for Off- Guardian, about an article Jeremy Hunt published in it.
However my son who works in London brings it home and the other day, venturing out into my garden for a crafty vape (e-cigarette) I saw a copy in my paper waste bin flapping in the wind. At first I didn’t approach. But after a while I succumbed. I thought there would be no harm reading the readers letter page. So I found the page and began reading.
Big mistake – there were some reader letters about whether or not the so called ‘ISIS bride’ should be allowed back into the UK.
Just to explain: not long back the format for the Evening Standard reader letters page changed. They used to publish around a dozen letters each day. And they allowed a range of views. Even I’ve had some letters published on Syria and Yemen although I had to tone things down a bit (then the editor toned them down a bit more) However they’ve now changed it to no more than a few letters and one of the editors responds to the main letter. I guess it gives them the last word on the topic of the day.
Anyway on the ‘ISIS bride’ topic there were two letters with differing viewpoints, one from an outraged Alfie and the other from a compassionate Constantine. If you wish to stereotype you can probably take a guess by their names and views which opposing sides of the river each live. These letters were replied to by no less than George Osborne, former Chancellor and the current editor of the Evening Standard. He replied as follows:
Dear Alfie and Constantine
I understand the anger of those who say Shamima Begum should not be allowed to return to the UK. After all, she supported a terrorist cult that killed Britons and, in her interviews, she shows little remorse.
But I don’t agree, for a simple reason: she was born in Britain and has British citizenship. Which other country is supposed to look after her on our behalf? Syria? It can’t look after its own citizens. Neighbours such as Jordan and Turkey? Since when did they have to take the British citizens we don’t want?
Another European country? Can you imagine the fury here if we took a French or Italian citizen who joined Islamic State? I’m sorry, but Ms Begum is our homegrown problem. She was groomed by extremists when she was 15 in our country. Investigate her by all means, charge her if she had committed crimes, and imprison her if that’s what a court decides. But that has to happen here.
As for her newborn boy, it will be one of the most vulnerable British citizens in the world. Unless we’ve now given up on compassion and justice, and believe that the sins of the mother should be visited on an innocent baby.
George Osborne, Editor
Osborne is right in the sense we should have the ‘ISIS bride’ back but dishonest on so many other levels. There are a few points he makes which I’ll comment on.
After all, she supported a terrorist cult that killed Britons and, in her interviews, she shows little remorse”
Well, at least she was honest about it. The British Government which included Osborne supported the death cults such as ISIS and Al Qaeda which have laid waste to Syria yet still deny their involvement. The British Government through this conflict have caused the death of thousands of Syrians and increased the risk of conflict with Russia.
Which other country is supposed to look after her on our behalf”? “Syria? – It can’t look after its own citizens”
It’s up to us to take her back but the main point is we need to take responsibility for the carnage we’ve caused. That probably means Osborne and his former cabinet colleagues who knew what they were doing, rather than the young, naive ‘ISIS bride’ should be tried for treason and war crimes.
Syria should not take her, but for the reason that she’s foreign – like the majority of fighters in ISIS and Al Qaeda. The states where these terrorists came from should take responsibility for dealing with them. Syria have their own programmes to integrate Syrians who joined these groups back into society.
And Syria can and does look after its own citizens. Why do you think after nearly 8 years of war and sanctions inflicted on Syria it still survives and the majority of civilians live under government control? This apart from Idlib, which the Syrian Army has been warned by the West not to liberate from Al Qaeda.
I’m sorry, but Ms Begum is our homegrown problem. She was groomed by extremists when she was 15 in our country. Investigate her by all means, charge her if she had committed crimes, and imprison her if that’s what a court decides. But that has to happen here.
As for her newborn boy, it will be one of the most vulnerable British citizens in the world. Unless we’ve now given up on compassion and justice, and believe that the sins of the mother should be visited on an innocent baby”.
Agreed again – it’s our problem but this whole reply implies the British Government had no involvement in Syria. Don’t talk about compassion and justice. It was the British Government which created the conditions for terrorism and war to take hold in Syria, Libya and Iraq. The underlying reasons why she joined ISIS can be debated but it doesn’t reflect well on the British Government whichever way you look at it.
There, I’ve got that off my chest. I’m still successful with my anti-smoking drive. But I still lapse from time to time where it concerns the Evening Standard. Hopefully I won’t need to inflict the consequences of the odd moment of weakness on to Off-G readers again.