Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Syria: Response from Julian Sturdy MP

I wrote to Julian Sturdy about Syria http://tomfranklin.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/syria-open-letter-to-julian-sturdy-mp.html.

Here is his response


Dear Mr Franklin 

Thank you for contacting me regarding the recent decision by the UK Government, alongside the US and France, to target three chemical weapons facilities in Syria following a poison gas attack in the town of Douma. l am very grateful to hear your concerns over this most important and pressing issue. 

l have carefully considered the correspondence l have recieved in the past few days and thought I would provide a comprehensive response which responds to the various points raised with me during this time. 

I believe the Prime Minister was right to take decisive action following the horrendous attack in Douma given the consensus in the international community that the use of chemical weapons on civilians should be met with targeted, but severe repercussions. The Prime Minister, following detailed military and secret intelligence briefings, assessed that the UK should join our close allies to make absolutely clear to President Assad that we will not sit idly by and allow these atrocities to take place without consequence. 

I understand the concerns raised about the lack of a specific parliamentary vote beforehand. However, this is not required for all forms of military action, and our Government acted in line with legal advice. The Government has ensured that Parliament can scrutinise this decision; with significant time set aside for debate. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has said she took this course of action in the knowledge that Parliament would hold her to account, and she has received support from across the House. 

Western leaders continue to seek a diplomatic solution to the Syrian Civil War, and an important part of this was an agreement to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons programme following the attack on civilians in Ghouta in 2013. Since this time, the OPCW has not been able to verify whether all manufacturing, storage and research facilities were in fact destroyed. 

On each occasion when chemical weapons have been used in Syria, Russia has blocked any attempt to hold the perpetrators to account at the UN Security Council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017. Just last week, Russia blocked a UN resolution to establish an independent investigation able to determine responsibility for the attack in Douma. This is why a response via the UN was sadly not possible. To say the government should not have acted without this authorisation is to say that dictators should be free to murder people with impunity, as long as they have a protector on the Security Council. I do not believe any of us wish to live in a world where this is the norm. 

The use of chemical weapons is completely illegal, but these rules are worth nothing without the willingness to take action against those who use such weapons. If the international community does  
not punish the perpetrators, we are all made less safe, as we send out the message that there are no consequences for such wicked criminal behaviour. 

Just as we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be deployed without consequence,we cannot allow the use of deadly nerve agents here in Britain. Sergei Skipal could easily have decided to settle in a larger cathedral city, such as York, and it could have been a North Yorkshire Police officer admitted to intensive care. 

Throughout this incident, the Kremlin made light of the situation and denied all involvement. This  
represents Russia's total disregard for international cooperation and tendency to employ misinformation. 

The unrelenting civil war is now in its seventh year and we still face repercussions from the immense destruction. Our response to this crisis has been unprecedented, committing £2.6b since 2012 to meet 
the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Syria and refugees in the region. This makes us the second largest bilateral donor. 

The UK resettled more refugees than any other country in the EU in 2016 and our approach has  
thankfully discouraged people from undertaking perilous journeys that have too often proven to be fatal. 

Our country will continue to provide a comprehensive humanitarian package for those caught up in the conflict, coupled with supporting a united international consensus around punishing the use of chemical weapons. I firmly believe that the ordinary citizens of Syria should be our primary concern and this should drive our approach to this conflict, whilst sewing the UK's national interest. 

Once again I am grateful for your thoughts on this challenging area and fully appreciate the level of  
concern on all sides of this debate. If there are any further points you feel it would be helpful for me to respond to or address then please do not hesitate to let me know. 

Thank you again for your correspondence. 

Yours sincerely

Julian Sturdy


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BBC bias the brush off

So, following my complaint about bias in the BBC

http://tomfranklin.blogspot.com/2018/04/bbc-bias-failure-to-report-islamophobia.html

their response and my further complaint http://tomfranklin.blogspot.com/2018/05/bbc-bias-bbcs-response.html

They have now given me a total brush off, but I will be responding.


Dear - Franklin

Reference CAS-4917021-G1CZX1

Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate that you were dissatisfied with our previous response and felt strongly enough to write to us again.

We have read and noted your further points but don’t consider they suggest evidence of a possible breach of standards. Opinions do vary widely about the BBC and its output, but this does not necessarily imply there has been a breach of standards or of the BBC’s public service obligations. For this reason we regret we don’t have more to add to our previous correspondence, and so will not respond further or address more questions or points.

If you are dissatisfied with this decision you may ask the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) to review it. Details of the BBC complaints process are available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/ where you can read the BBC’s full complaints framework.

If you wish to ask the ECU to review this decision, you should contact it directly within 20 working days of receiving this reply. Please explain to the ECU why you believe there may have been a potential breach of standards or other significant issue to investigate. You can email ecu@bbc.co.uk, or write to: Executive Complaints Unit, BBC, Broadcast Centre, London W12 7TQ. Please include the case reference number we have provided in this reply.

Kind regards

Janine McMeekin
BBC Complaints Team

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

BBC Bias - The BBC's response


Dear - Franklin

Thanks for contacting us about recent BBC News coverage of UK politics.

We note you feel there hasn't been enough coverage of alleged incidents of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. It's clear you find a difference between this and the media treatment of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. This has been shared with news staff and senior colleagues in BBC News.

Following Baroness Warsi’s comment, the Muslim Council of Britain’s complaint about the Conservatives has not been picked up by other organisations or Westminster politicians - as the anti-Semitism allegations within the Labour Party have been. The Muslim Council of Britain appears to have made these most recent comments in a statement to another news organisation. At the time of writing, the MCB has not issued a press release, or put these comments about the Conservative Party and Islamophobia on its website.

However, we have reported on the suspension of specific individuals in the Conservative party - online examples remain here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-43959705
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-43647990
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-43656434

In 2016 we also reported criticisms of the tone of the Conservative Mayoral campaign in London: https://bbc.in/1qYgdbd

We have also reported on attitudes to and the treatment of Muslims more widely in the UK. For example, earlier this year Panorama recently reported from Blackburn, a town with a large Muslim Asian population, looking at divisions along ethnic lines in the town and how they have changed over time.

We will continue to report impartially and fairly on developments, both at a Party level and more generally speaking.

Thanks for taking the time to share your reaction with us.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints Team
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints




I do not think that this in any way addresses the problem that I complained about in my previous post.

I will therefore be taking this further, addressing what they say and restating the point.

I find it seriously worrying that you only consider something newsworthy if it is "picked up by other organisations or Westminster politicians".  The BBC employs a large number of journalists who should be researching these stories themselves, rather than relying on other media or the MPs to do their work for them. When did the BBC stop looking for news stories and only pick them up from other organisations.  

I think few would dispute that the vast majority of the main stream media ("other organisations") are conservative supporting, and certainly anti-Corbyn (and anti-Green Party too).  This means that you are taking your stories from a very biased source and creating the very echo chamber that is so often decried.  This simply reinforces the so called "Westminster bubble" and it is imperative for the survival of democracy in this country that you use a much wider set of sources.

Secondly, on the specifics of your response.  Yes, the three stories  that you cite were reported online, but the anti-Semitism story was the lead story for day after day and in the news for weeks. What is more, a quick search of your site finds plenty of stories of Labour councillors being suspended such as

And, I could easily find more.

So, to suggest that a few articles about suspension of individual Tory councillors (when there are a similar number of articles on suspended Labour councillors (and quite possibly from other parties if I could be bothered to look), simply does not balance the endless stories about anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

Indeed, I find the response so disingenuous that it is quite clear that you are trying to cover up the degree of bias that exists at the BBC.

Monday, April 30, 2018

BBC bias - failure to report Islamophobia in the Tory Party. Complaint to the BBC

Baroness Warsi, ex co-leader of the Tories, has recently spoken out about the high level of Islamophobia in the Tory Party.  The Muslim Council has called for an enquiry.  None of this has been reported on the BBC, in stark contrast to the endless reporting of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

I am a Jew, and member of neither Labour nor Tory parties, and find this totally different way of covering the stories shows clear bias in repeated criticising of one party for racism, and not even mentioning it in other parties.

Bias isn't just about how stories are covered, but which stories are covered and how much coverage they are given.  In the current context I would expect the BBC to report on the levels of racism to be found in all parties.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Home Office is detaining pregnant women, victims of torture and people with learning difficulties - and they've no idea when they'll be released - letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Julian, 

Sorry to be writing to you again in such a short space of time, but I believe all the emails are matters of great importance. 

The Home Office, as the subject suggests, are locking up people who are victims of torture, who have learning difficulties and many other vulnerable people. 

Rather than address the real problem the home office tries to change definitions so that it can continue with this barbaric behaviour, while pretending to do better. Something we have seen happen several times lately. 

It is clear that the home office needs to radically change the way it is working, with this and Windrush amongst other problems. 

Please write to the home secretary demanding that as a matter of urgency the home office starts using an internationally recognised definition of torture, and that it stops incarcerating victims of torture, people with learning difficulties and other vulnerable groups. 

Best wishes

Tom

Tom Franklin

Immigration - letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Julian, 

This is almost getting embarrassing, I find myself writing to you again, this time about government immigration policy. 

I don't know if you have read the articles in Saturday's Guardian such as this one https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/15/why-the-children-of-windrush-demand-an-immigration-amnesty which I hope you will agree are shameful and shocking. 

In view of this I would be grateful if you would sign Early Day Motion 1182 calling for an independent review of Home Office policies and practice and the hostile environment. https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1182

I am aware that in the past you have said that you do not sign EDMs, but not that you have signed EDM 647.

Best wishes

Tom

Tom Franklin

Syria - Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Julian,

I am writing to express my concerns over the government’s actions in Syria. 

First, I do not understand how bombing will lead to peace.  We have seen Syria being bombed for the lest seven years and all it has lead to is more violence and more bombing.  Further, I do not see what the urgency was to bomb before there had been a time to see what the attack was and who was responsible. It feels very like before the Gulf war when the WDM inspectors were not allowed to finish their job – because there were no WDMs to find.

This brings me to my second point, that there does not seem to be any consistency in the government’s policy.  Saudi Arabia has been targeting civilians in the Yemen for many years now, without any criticism from the government.  The Saudi Arabian forces (which include embedded UK forces) have used white phosphorous and cluster bombs against civilians (a form of chemical warfare).  Not only has there been no criticism from the UK government it has sold over £3,500 billion of weapons to the Saudi government since the start of the war with Yemen.  It is therefore difficult to believe that the government is motivated by human rights concerns.

Thirdly, and perhaps in the long run most seriously, was the extraordinary claim by Theresa May that we could not wait for the UN as the Russians would probably veto any resolution calling for action.  This is a clear undermining of the international rule of law.  Next time it might be Russia or North Korea saying that they cannot wait for the UN as one of their enemies might veto their resolution.  We have an international legal framework, but once we start undermining it others will follow down that path and there is a serious danger of undermining the whole international settlement.

Finally, there has been the further erosion of parliamentary democracy.  Parliament has been very weak for many years (see for instance Lord Hailsham’s article on elective dictatorships), but Theresa May appears to have little belief in parliament.  It took a legal case to force her to refer invoking article 50 to parliament and now we have this clear assumption of further dictatorial powers to the executive.

As a parliamentarian I am asking you to
  • Write to the Prime Minister asserting that it is Parliament, and only parliament, that should ever declare war (note that is different to responding to a declaration of war against the UK by another country).
  • Write to the Secretary of State for International Trade and the Secretary of State for Defence demanding an end of sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia – and any other country that is committing war crimes

Thank you very much
Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin

Referendum on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations - Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP

Dear Julian,

As a democrat I hope that you will support a referendum on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations.  I think that there are three key reasons for this:

  • The original referendum was very close at 52% to 48%, hardly a decisive win for Brexit.
  • It has become clear that Brexit campaign broke campaigning law in many ways, in particular through the way that Vote Leave passed money to BeLeave and the abuse of personal data
  • When voting in the original referendum we had no idea what Brexit would look like with the result that many claims were made that are clearly not (or at least no longer) true.  Once the negotiations are completed we will know what Brexit would mean and therefore be able to give informed consent.

I hope that you will see fit to speak at the debate on the topic on 11 June and call for an informed democratic decision.

Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin