Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Boris and Jeremy tour the nation sprinkling promises, but do they think we should ‘bring back the beheaders’?

 

Rocky road: Boris Johnson during a visit to a sweet factory
Rocky road: Boris Johnson during a visit to a sweet factory

By Lindy McDowell

It's been a week of election promises with Boris and Jeremy dangling carrots of gold offering millions, billions, trillions even.

Investment in the NHS and education. Less tax. Free broadband. Money for childcare. These things play well with the electorate.

"Bring back the beheaders" doesn't have quite the same voter appeal.

And so, thus far, there's been limited debate in this campaign on the pressing matter of what to do about the hundreds of UK Isis fighters, their wives and children currently held in Syria.

In a week of pacts, it's been a pact of silence.

But this is a major challenge that will haunt whoever takes the keys of Number 10.

Both the Turks and the Kurds - the latter currently guarding many of the Isis prisons - have warned that the existing state of affairs can't continue.

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Something needs to be done about the prisoners. Somebody needs to take responsibility for them.

Donald Trump puts it in typically bombastic terms. If European countries don't take back their own nationals from among the Isis fighters, he says he'll dump them on the individual countries' borders.

As with so much that spews from the gob of Trump it's hard to make out how he intends to do this. Especially when it comes to the UK. Which border does he mean? The one at Newry or the new one down the Irish Sea?

Trump aside, though, something has to be done soon or what is already a dangerous and inhumane situation is bound to escalate.

The poster girl for Isis wannabe returnees is Shamima Begum, who has had her UK citizenship rescinded by the British Government. They could do this because Shamina has - or had - dual nationality.

Under international law they would not have been able to leave her stateless. Which is why they're unable to similarly revoke the citizenship of other UK Isis fighters and supporters.

I've written about Shamina before. I'm in two minds about her.

On the one hand she willingly ran away to join a savage terror enterprise whose war crimes were medieval in barbarity. She has shown no real remorse.

Yet she was just 15 and vulnerable when she was seduced into heading for Syria. Her children are dead. She's stranded in a hellhole camp.

But let the many Shamimas back and what do you do about the male fighters? Allow them to return, to merge back into the community, organising God knows what horror here?

This week Sky TV visited the prisons and camps where the Isis fighters and their families are held.

The reporting team weren't just wearing flak jackets, but face masks against the stench.

In human terms it was hard to watch scenes of a young mother haul her baby in a makeshift cart over the cesspit ground.

Or to see a young man bandage his own amputated leg as he lay amid the dirty, heaving mass of prisoners.

Yes, there are evil people there. Monsters. But we also know from experience in Northern Ireland how young saps were suckered into killer gangs by manipulative godfathers.

I'm not saying bring them home and give them a pat on the back. Or OTR letters.

But better to have them face justice here than leave them to conspire and regroup and plot vengeance over there.

The West, the UK, needs a strategy. The West needs to wake up.

Among those spewing threats in that report was a young boy aged about 12. Saucer-eyed with innocence but his voice trembling with hate his message for the West was blunt: "We will slaughter you."

Meanwhile, Boris and Jeremy have this week been zipping across the nation a bit like Tinkerbell and the Fairy Godmother sprinkling promises and fairy dust.

Even more pressing things for them to worry about.

The beheaders can wait.

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The Queen attends the Remembrance Sunday ceremony

Did she or didn't she? Did the Queen wipe away a tear as she watched the annual Remembrance Day commemoration?

Well, it was a tear obviously. But was it, as common consensus has had it this week, the result of Her Majesty being overcome with emotion? Or, to my mind more likely, just the result of a stinging November wind?

The Queen, as we know, takes stoic to a different level from the rest of us. The day after her "teary-eyed" moment she was out riding her horse at Windsor. She's 93.

She's lived a lifetime of unrelenting stiff upper lippery. Doubtless she occasionally feels a bit overwhelmed and wobbly with emotion like the rest of us. She holds it in.

As the figurehead of the nation she obviously feels the solemn public occasion is not about her. It's about those to whom she has come to pay tribute.

In all of this, yes, she probably represents a relic from a bygone age. But for me that's all the more reason to admire her.

Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are reported this week to be planning further time off after their upcoming American break in order to "recharge their batteries".

Compared to the nonagenarian Elizabeth, their workload is minimal.

The late writer, broadcaster and columnist Patrick Campbell - a contemporary of the Queen's - once told how he'd asked his editor for a holiday.

"A holiday?" his boss snapped. "From what?"

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Steve Easterbrook

Office romances off the menu

Who knew Ronald McDonald was such a prude? McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook has been "let go" after he'd confessed to a totally consensual relationship with a co-worker - a contravention of employee rules now commonplace in the US to guard companies against legal claims of harassment. Some including Google and Facebook allow that you can ask a co-worker out, but if they say no you can't ask again. Bit unfortunate for those who really are washing their hair that night.

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Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn’s just Scot to be joking

Patronising political moment of the week. Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Scotland - in a tartan scarf. Who does he think he is? Rod Stewart (thankfully we were spared the sight of Jezza in full kilt)? At least Rod wore it well and at least he had a reason. The clue's in the name, Jeremy. I'm not sure the McCorbyns are such a major clan. Still, it could give you a new campaign song. "Do ya think I'm Scottish?"

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