Dealing with Hamas?

Go to early Jewish Assembly at Highgate School where I am to talk briefly on being an MP and then take questions. As I have been told that the questions will be on the Israel / Palestine issue and other Jewish related matters, I try and set out the way an MP makes up their mind on an issue. I think it is always one of the confusions – do you represent the party you stand for, the people you represent or your conscience? Of course, it’s all three – with a range of variations on how strong each of those remits is on each issue.

I was explaining that you need to be very clear in your own mind – particularly on those dramatically split issues where both sides have enormous lobbies who are quite venomous if you don’t agree with their particular view. On Israel/Palestine I have always been quite clear that the two-state solution is the only way forward, they are both wrong when they do wrong, and the rights and wrongs of history and historic actions cannot be the arbiter of future solutions. It’s long and complicated and I do the best I can with a young audience and only a few minutes. I do tell them that an even-handed approach wins you no friends – on either side.

Anyway – we go on to questions. There is one young man who asks, as I have been discussing the difficulty caused to the western world by the election of Hamas, about relations with Hamas. We promote democracy as the fair and judicial way to select our administrations. Palestine has elected Hamas democratically. Previously, they were treated as a terrorist organization. So – the question was how do we deal them? I don’t think the young man liked my answer – which was that you have to negotiate. Yes – use all the powers that we in the West collectively have in terms of influence to insist that they recognise the state of Israel – but talk we must.

One of the things that always shocks me about the Middle Eastern situation is the lack of sustained drive and priority that Bush and Blair seem to give to it. I remember Blair literally rolling up his sleeves to get Northern Ireland on the road to peace – and the IRA were terrorists too.

As ever young audiences are always interesting – and I enjoy working with schools greatly. Have had lots of schools up to Parliament for a tour and then I will meet them generally if I am able to take half an hour’s questions. Last week – Coldfall and Highgate.

Off to surgery followed by a home visit to one of the audience from the Carer’s Conference I did last week. She had just been totally neglected by Haringey Council. As it is so difficult to even get out of the house if you are a sole carer – I said I would pop round to her house. She has a very disabled three-year-old daughter. Without going into details – physically cannot walk, feed herself etc There is an older daughter aged six and the mother has lupus.

She is still waiting, after two and a half years, for an assessment. She has no support. No respite. No social worker. No nothing. I do sometimes wonder what an earth is going on. Most of us who are well, able and in work do regard ourselves as lucky to be so and are glad to pay our taxes so that there is a welfare state there to help those who need assistance. We may get cross when our money is wasted or misused – but certainly we believe in the system and ideals. And when I encounter situations like this – I just want to scream. Do the powers that be have no idea what it is like to try and look after a severely disabled child 24/7 on your own? For goodness sake Haringey – this just isn’t on. We will see how quickly we can change this situation.

I had another carer that had spoken up at the conference who came to the surgery. Haringey Council supplied a commode – but it was too big for the accommodation so had to go back and be exchanged for one that was smaller. He is still waiting for the replacement years on. It isn’t rocket science for heaven’s sake.

Blair’s big speech on rebalancing the scales of justice was today. That’s all he has left in him – mouthing off about how bad things are. Well 50 pieces of legislation in the criminal justice and home affairs arenas under Labour mean that if things are wrong – there’s only one person and one party to blame – and that’s T Blair and Labour.

So tough on crime when it comes to talk – but such a catalogue of disasters in reality: porous borders, escaped prisoners, shortened sentences etc etc.

Last thing watch Cameron on Jonathan Ross. Jonathan is a class act – and Boy Dave is not. In fact he looked uncomfortable, wasn’t funny, tried to peddle his cuddly mantra (didn’t work) and I thought was pretty well exposed as having little understanding of the people. (Oh, and changed his mind on Iraq, again!). At least when Blair and Kennedy go on populist shows, they come over as human and likeable. Advice – stick to reading soundbites at PMQs.