Read about my week in my latest weekly update.
This week was dominated by the government’s spending plans. And it was gratifying to see that Labour’s powerful campaign on two key issues bore fruit.
Firstly, George Osborne backtracked on tax credits – at least for now. Secondly, our support for the police - and particularly our neighbourhood police – forced him to perform a very important U turn. It would be madness to make these cuts after the atrocities in Paris, and he was forced to recognise this.
Not so welcome was the raid on Transport for London’s budget. The £700 million that the Tories took will have to be paid for and higher fares are the most likely source.
Then there was the rise in council taxes. Having squeezed local government budgets by an eye-watering 51% Osborne will allow councils to raise taxes. It is a simple transfer of responsibility for bad news from central government to local authorities. A clever political wheeze, but in the end the money will be coming from your pocket!
‘A very special place…’
The official opening of Netley School in Regents Park ward was a moment of real joy and enthusiasm. Everyone – the pupils, parents, staff and the wider community were bubbling over with optimism and energy. As I said at the event, it is a very special place.
The school is a vibrant institution, welcoming everyone, young and old. It also has an outstanding facility in Woodlands, which provides specialised care for children with Autism.
Here is just one image from the launch, with the executive head teacher, Bavaani Nanthabalan, calling us all to order. To see many more, please visit a picture gallery from this event here.
The fight against ‘Islamic State’
Should Britain join the military intervention in Syria to counter the terrorist group calling itself the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ or Da'ish? There are few more difficult questions we face; there are few that involve such a degree of uncertainty. The tragic events in Paris, Mali and beyond underline the threat we face.
This has been the response I have sent to constituents who asked for my view, but, as you can imagine, my views are evolving as the situation develops.
“I can assure you that I would consider any proposals the Government may bring forward on military intervention in Syria with the utmost caution.
I also believe that following the recent terrorist outrages in Paris and elsewhere it is vital that Parliament is able to calmly consider the best possible to way to tackle the clear threat that ISIL poses in Britain and abroad.
The situation in Syria is fluid and precarious. The case for intervention will have to be assessed if and when a vote is called. Having opposed the war in Iraq, my position is clear; there must be both a lawful basis and a compelling case before intervention could be countenanced. Neither is made out as things stand.
I believe that Britain should now push for a UN Security Council Resolution which could cover both a peace process for Syria and action to end the threat from ISIL. I also believe all possible efforts should be made to build on the recent peace talks in Vienna.
Thank you once again for your e-mail and for writing to me on this extremely important issue.
Keir Starmer, QC, MP”
Indian women fighting violence against women and girls
Jane Gordon of Sisters for Change kindly asked me to meet a delegation of Indian women who are in the UK to look at our policies and practices in this area. They were keen to have an interchange about some of the changes I was able to institute while I was the Director of Public Prosecutions, and we had a lively discussion.
You can read a little more about this here.
A grilling from Camden School for Girls
I regularly get interviewed by journalists, but nothing was as rigorous as the questions that were put to me when I went to “Any Questions” style event at Camden School for Girls! Everything from human rights law to the situation in Syria. It was challenging, but also a real pleasure.
Thanks for inviting me!
Last Saturday I was in Oxford to deliver the Blackstone lecture at Pembroke College. I chose to focus on whether Britain should remain part of the European Court of Human Rights. My answer – particularly in the light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and across the rest of the world – is a clear and unequivocal yes.