Simon Reevell's Notes From Westminster

Issue 624

THIS year we remember the 100th anniversary of the First World War. 

Britain became involved because we were one of a number of countries that guaranteed Belgium’s borders and so when the German army invaded Belgium on its way to France we honoured our commitment.

The idea of an aggressor crossing another country’s borders and that country then looking for help from those who pledged to uphold its freedom seems almost old fashioned or at least it did until last week.

The UK (together with the USA) guaranteed Ukraine’s borders when it agreed to give up its nuclear weapons.

As the Russians dig-in in the Crimea many Ukrainians now look to the West to honour that commitment.

The countries of the former Soviet Union still remember what life used to be like and because of that value freedoms that we perhaps now take for granted.

I am one of the UK parliamentary representatives on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation for Europe. Its members include NATO countries, former Warsaw Pact countries, Russia and the USA. Its purpose is to provide a forum for discussion to prevent the various groupings of countries descending into war.

On one occasion I used the UK’s vote to support Georgia and oppose Russia. In this country it wasn’t even reported.

In Georgia it was front-page news. The delegation from Georgia came over and hugged and kissed me. In Georgia and Ukraine they remember what it was like to live without freedom.

We will not go to war over Ukraine but an important lesson is that no-one saw this coming and it represents the biggest threat to European stability since the end of the cold war. When I spoke in favour of a like-for-like replacement in the Trident debate in Parliament (our nuclear deterrent is coming toward the end of its life) I made two points; deterrence has worked and you never know what’s around the corner.

This week is likely to see the report from the Independent Scrutiny Panel that has been considering the proposals from the Mid-Yorks Trust.

The panel is another level of clinician-led expert opinion. Up to now those politicians that have opposed the proposals could claim to be well meaning even if the panel finds that they were wrong.

If the panel’s conclusion is that the proposals are sensible and will bring real benefits to those needing hospital treatment those same politicians should pause and reflect.

They know full well that compared to some of the country’s top medics they haven’t got a clue when it comes to saving people and so to go on pretending that they do know best would see them putting playing politics above saving lives.

Very best wishes,

Simon

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