I wasn’t that surprised when a second Conservative MP defected to UKIP the other day, although there are several Tory MPs I’ve observed who I thought would have jumped ship before Douglas Carswell.
He has followed the route taken by Bob Spink the MP for Castle Point in the last Parliament in joining what has become a familiar home for Thatcherite Conservatives unhappy with Cameron’s metropolitan Conservatism.
What marks Douglas Carswell out from the very small number of MPs who have switched sides down the years is his decision to resign and test it in a by-election. Good on him for that I say and I suspect he will do better than the last defecting MP to do this.
In 1983 Bruce Douglas-Mann the MP for the South London seat of Mitcham & Morden left the Labour Party to join the SDP only when he put this to his electors they didn’t agree with him. He came third in the by-election fought against the back drop of the Falklands War. Conservative Angela Rumbold was elected in his place whose House of Commons office I was allocated in 1997 when she lost her seat. Sadly neither are still alive to give Douglas Carswell by-election advice.
I am sure everyone was shocked at the findings exposed in the recent inquiry into child abuse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
The failings exposed by this inquiry are appalling and the Government says it is absolutely clear that the lessons of past failures must be learned.
That is why it is right to establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.
The government has set up a Home Office led National Group, through which agencies are working together to better identify those at risk and create a more victim-focused culture within the police, health and children’s services.
This is all good but what has saddened me has been the failure to focus on those who carried out the appalling crimes against children.
The concentration has mostly been on those who had responsibilities during this period. Sure they failed the children in their care and they should be held accountable, but they are easy to identify and expose. The difficult job is tracking down those who carried out these crimes and bringing them to justice.
The brutal murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff is shocking and depraved and at the time of writing there is a British citizen being held hostage by the same captors who look like they include Britons among them.
The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home. If Britain does not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. But as the Prime Minister has made clear, we are not going to put boots on the ground in Iraq in a combat role.
The Government is already taking action to address the threat that British nationals in extremist organisations pose to national security, including policies aimed at deterring people at risk of radicalisation.
Far too many British citizens have travelled to Iraq and travelled to Syria to take part in extremism and violence. We should redouble our efforts to stop people from going.
The police and security services are actively working to detect and disrupt terrorist threats. People seeking to travel to engage in terrorist activity in Syria or Iraq should be in no doubt we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security, including prosecuting those who break the law.
The Government also have a wide range of powers at their disposal to disrupt travel and manage the risk posed by returnees.
What we mustn’t do is react in a knee jerk fashion and implement legislation without evidence that it is likely to have the desired effect its proponents claim and without any unintended consequences. Legislate in haste, repent at leisure.
I think the Prime Minister has so far handled this very difficult situation well but I do not support his view that British military assets could be deployed without reference to Parliament.
Whether or not one is convinced of the case for action it is only right and proper that the nation’s forum – the House of Commons – gets to debate such matters and passes its opinion on behalf of the people.
I kept a straight face at a recent Transport Select Committee when representatives from the north of England complained that they get hand-me-down rolling stock. And who gets their old trains? The South West of course.