In My View - 29th September 2016

The bloodied faces of children in Aleppo let down by the failure of the ceasefire in Syria this week are tough but necessary viewing. It is a time for cool heads, but the genocidal behaviour of Russia, Iran and Assad, with no consideration for the value of human life evidenced by medieval siege tactics and deliberate targeting of healthcare and vital services, cannot now be denied.

The House of Commons voted last December for careful, precision targeting by our forces of Islamist terrorists and their supply in Syria. I am pleased to say having been briefed in detail that these operations have taken place as intended, and made a real difference on the ground in protecting communities from being taken over by homicidal nihilists.

One of the other hopes for our engagement was that it would allow us to participate credibly in diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria, and replace it with a ceasefire, political transition, rebuilding and a return to normality.

The pictures from the renewed Russian-backed offensive this week are a poignant sign that this has not yet worked. And sadly they are not going to make Islamist radicalisation less likely. But it feels like something else changed this week. Those who had begun to think Russia could be trusted must surely be reconsidering.

I think it has been a major mistake to allow Russia and its client states to believe they can act with impunity and outside international law. Consequences or the credible apprehension of them are an essential part of changing behaviour, as any student of international relations will testify.

So while we feel the pain of Aleppo we must steel ourselves for other responses. There must be consequences for Russia, whose membership of the UN Security Council looks more inappropriate by the day.

More happily last week I had an excellent meeting with the management of Yeovil District Hospital. How thankful we should be that in this country we are trying to build up and modernise our healthcare capabilities and facilities, rather than have them at risk of destruction from bombs and civil war.

Our discussion focused on working together to meet the challenges of an ageing population and the fact we have ever wider and more expensive treatment options for people. I will continue to champion leading local work into how more integrated new models of health and social care provision can keep people out of expensive acute facilities and as close to home as possible.

We also spoke about the new outpatient facility that will be built, and I visited the wonderful new Special Care Baby Unit which local people and the hospital's charity have worked so hard to fund. We must seize the opportunity to work more closely with neighbouring health trusts and CCGs to deliver high quality maternity and children's treatment facilities into the future.

It is a constant problem for us to attract or train and keep professionals with the right skills in South Somerset, whether it be for hospital consultant, nursing, social work, teaching or engineering jobs. We need to take advantage of the Government's focus on our area for new infrastructure to make sure our skills training capabilities and local quality of life are given a higher profile too.