Belfast Telegraph

Chris Moncrieff: Theresa May was right to attack Syria without approval of parliament

Delaying the decision to strike at Assad until after the Easter recess would only have given the tyrant more time to prepare

By Chris Moncrieff

The Prime Minister has been facing prolonged and angry criticism for not involving parliament in the decision for the UK to join the USA and France in air attacks on Syria, following President Assad's alleged illegal use of chemical warfare on his own people as the vicious civil war rages on.

But the Prime Minister found herself caught between a rock and a hard place. On the face of it, it seems that to bypass parliament in reaching such a momentous decision was at odds with all the tenets of democracy.

But what was she to do? The operation needed to be carried out quickly, to ensure the Syrian regime had as little time as possible to prepare to combat this onslaught from the West.

The delay that would have occurred if parliamentary approval (or otherwise) had to be sought could have endangered the whole operation.

Also, if parliament had said no, it would have given Russia an opportunity to claim a split in the West on this issue.

Parliament was still in the Easter recess, so a reassembly would have delayed matters even further.

Worse still, with a number of Tory MPs as angry as most Labour MPs about the decision to bypass parliament, the vote could easily have been lost.

And that could have further - and possibly fatally - weakened Mrs May's already dwindling authority as Tory leader.

So, all in all, it seemed the right thing to go ahead as she did, to ensure President Assad was aware of the detestation in the West about his alleged illegal activities.

And he has been warned, too, that if there is a further breach, the USA is "locked and loaded" to mount another attack.

The Prime Minister has struck the right note by saying that this is not about regime change, or interfering in a foreign civil war.

It was simply a very dire warning to Assad that he had better not do it again - or else.

It comes as a relief to hear the stop-and-search policy, which fell into decline because of accusations of racism, is to be stepped up again.

Protesters had complained that a disproportionate number of black people were being stopped and searched, which made it difficult for the police to stop and search ethnic minorities without having charges of racism hurled at them.

However, it is now apparent that a large proportion of the gun and knife crimes disfiguring the streets of London and elsewhere over recent months have involved black-on-black gang warfare.

It may be an uncomfortable fact for some people to accept this, but it is nevertheless true.

So, the police should have no inhibitions about whom they challenge in this way.

They should go for the people they consider most likely to be carrying firearms, or knives - irrespective of any other consideration.

The dire financial straits in which the National Health Service finds itself can only be worsened by the failure - or refusal - of foreigners who have received NHS treatment to pay for it.

At present, the NHS is owed a colossal £150m by tourists from overseas, who have not paid a penny towards the service.

It is a scandal which is hard to resolve and attempts by hospitals to recoup some of the money have produced only a tiny fraction of what is owed.

Perhaps some arrangements could be made to stop backsliders from leaving the country until they have paid up.

It is wrong that the NHS should have to act as debt collectors, so a way must be found to ensure that those selfish people should somehow be compelled to pay up for a service to which they have not contributed even a brass farthing.

Ken Livingstone, Labour's former Mayor of London, has "with a heavy heart", he says, declined an invitation to take part in the TV reality show, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Livingstone said they were offering him a huge fee, just at a time when, he claimed, he was running out of money.

But he felt he had to heed the protests of his children, who did not want to see him naked on the television screen.

The Livingstone brood have done the nation a service; I don't think anyone would wish to see Mr Livingstone in the buff.

Though there is, of course, the off button.

Belfast Telegraph

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