I understand there was a “mums and dads” protest outside my constituency office in Usk on Friday afternoon calling for a ceasefire between Israel and the militant terrorist group Hamas. I was unable to speak with parents as I had a pre-arranged visit with the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. But if anyone had asked me about the Israel-Gaza conflict, here is what I would have said: The loss of life on both sides is horrifying. I am glad aid is now being delivered to Gaza through the Rafah crossing, and foreign nationals and injured civilians are being allowed to leave into Egypt. But I stand with the leaders of most mainstream political parties that this is being caused by Hamas. The unspeakable acts of barbaric violence inflicted on innocent civilians at a music festival and family neighbourhoods in southern Israel – which included rape, slaughtering children, burning families in their homes and taking hostages - was the worst attack on Jewish people since World War II. It was obvious that once that happened, Israel would retaliate and deal with Hamas. If Israel had stayed silent and not responded, there may well have been further such attacks – not just from Hamas but from Hezbollah in Lebanon as well. I am pleased the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, has been as firm in his support of Israel’s right to self-defence as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has. When two parties that usually disagree on everything come together, it is worth taking note. Even though Labour and Conservatives are opposed on most things, we are united in voice on this. Nobody wants to see innocent civilians killed. But Hamas needs to stop hiding rockets among the civilian population in Gaza and launching them into Israel. Hamas must take responsibility for the terrorist acts that have taken place. I do appreciate that many people are calling for a ceasefire, but I respectfully say there will not be a ceasefire because Hamas remains a barrier to peace.
Contrary to what one reader of my column is saying, responsibility for devolved matters such as health, education and social care lies solely with the Welsh Labour Government. Wales benefits enormously from Barnett formula funding and receives 20 per cent more per head of population than is spent in England. Yet the results in Wales are far worse, where we have poorer education standards and longer NHS waiting times. Labour cannot hide behind the fact that this is all the fault of the UK Government because it is simply not true. They pushed for more responsibility and get the money – but are failing to deliver on public services.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 08 November 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 09 November 2023*