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Yvonne Ridley: Aleppo burns as Westminster orchestrates a farce and the media plays along

British journalist and author Yvonne Ridley, who embraced Islam after being captured by the Taliban is a columnist at CommonSpace.

Yvonne Ridley lambasts Westminster politicians for their behaviour during this week’s emergency debate in the House of Commons on Syria.

AS the last of Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs exploded in the ruins of Aleppo, the Palace of Westminster swung into action after Tory MP Andrew Mitchell was granted his emergency debate.

Sadly the House of Parliament resembled more a House of Hypocrites as it lumbered into a carefully orchestrated traditional procedure that was probably more rehearsed than the finals of the X Factor.

Whatever critics say about Holyrood, most of the debates are spontaneous and exchanges lively, but the theatrics of Westminster provide yet another reason for Scottish voters to bring the curtain down on this farce by renewing the calls for independence.

The theatrics of Westminster provide yet another reason for Scottish voters to bring the curtain down on this farce by renewing the calls for independence.

Before a single aye or no was taken, those of us who are jaded by the inner workings of Westminster knew the outcome – there would be absolutely no impact beyond the smug, self important expressions that have come to define the front benches in the London-based parliament.

There was lots of self flagellation, naval gazing and crocodile tears as one MP after another stood up to blame themselves and each other for the wretched state of affairs in Syria’s largest city.

Bemoaning past events, former chancellor George Osborne bellowed: “The tragedy in Aleppo did not come out of a vacuum, it was created by a vacuum, a vacuum of Western leadership, of American leadership, of British leadership.

“I take responsibility as someone who sat on the national security council throughout those years. Parliament should take its responsibility for what it prevented being done and there were multiple opportunities to intervene.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was uncharacteristically as dull as ditch water as he ruled out air drops of aid, saying it was too dangerous to fly into airspace controlled by Russia and Syria and that UK planes would be sitting ducks.

There was lots of self flagellation, naval gazing and crocodile tears as one MP after another stood up to blame themselves and each other for the wretched state of affairs in Syria’s largest city.

Johnson said the slaughter in eastern Aleppo “shames us all” and promised that the government was pulling every diplomatic lever at its disposal, but failed to elaborate.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour had condemned the Kremlin and Assad for their actions in eastern Aleppo. “We must ensure they are one day held to account, while we equally condemn Iran and Hezbollah for the role they have played in this massacre. It was a global collective failure, every bit as great as … Srebrenica,” she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sat uncomfortably for a few minutes until she finished and then he left the chamber without uttering a word, leaving himself wide open to more criticism.

Prime Minister Theresa May was a no show, and where was star performer Hilary Benn whose words on Syria previously had set Westminster ablaze? He was another no show; a reflection, perhaps, on how he rated the importance of yesterday’s debate.

He could’ve taken centre stage again, winning plaudits from both sides of the chamber while annoying the hell out of Corbyn, but the prospect of yet another emergency debate may have proved too much.

Prime Minister Theresa May was a no show, and where was star performer Hilary Benn whose words on Syria previously had set Westminster ablaze?

Tory after Tory rose to their feet to express regret they’d not voted with then PM David Cameron back in August 2013 to bomb Syria earlier. And Labour also got in the act as Blairites such as Ben Bradshaw, Mike Gapes, James Woodcock and the equally unremarkable Stephen Doughty put on their most pained expressions of sorrow for what was unfolding in Aleppo.

At one point it was like a throwback to the Blair days when it was hard to tell who was a Tory and who was Tory Lite. Woodcock, never one to miss an opportunity to kick his own party in the guts, didn’t help when he ingratiated himself by praising Osborne saying: “He gave the speech that should have been made from our despatch box and he showed a level of understanding about these issues which shows that, which makes me hope very much that he has a future in his party.”

Yes, you heard right. A Labour MP praising the former Tory Chancellor and then he took time out to give his own party a good kicking by referring to Labour’s position in 2013, saying: “I still feel sick at the idea of the then leader of the opposition going from that vote into the whips’ office and congratulating himself and them on stopping a war, when look what is happening today and look what’s happened over the last three years.” No wonder Corbyn didn’t hang around to listen to that.

Other speeches were also excruciatingly embarrassing, stilted and not spontaneous. Although it was called an ’emergency debate’ everything was co-ordinated and virtually scripted in advance by the Speaker’s team who essentially knew who and in what order he would call MPs.

The list and order of speakers would have been drawn up earlier in the day by the unelected mandarins in his office. Apparently tradition dictates there is a pecking order starting with the high and mighty from the front benches to veterans and grandees before moving on to the newbies.

Perhaps the best soundbite of the day, when it came, was not original, but Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady’s “bread-not-bombs” resonated around the chamber and into Twitterland as it emerged there had been no food delivered to besieged Aleppo for seven months.

By the time the perceived great and good had spoken there was little time left for the leader of Welsh party Plaid Cymru Hywel Williams to choose a few carefully selected words before few members of the SNP were given time to speak.

Tommy Shepherd said the stated objective of “cutting off the head” of Daesh/Isis, while providing air support for 70,000 ground forces as part of a co-ordinated military action, had failed.

Perhaps the best soundbite of the day, when it came, was not original, but Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady’s “bread-not-bombs” resonated around the chamber and into Twitterland as it emerged there had been no food delivered to besieged Aleppo for seven months.

Even the interventions weren’t that spontaneous as much of these parliamentary interruptions are agreed between MPs’ offices in advance – obviously no one told the SNP’s Grady who refused to give way to another MP as he made his contribution.

It’s quite clear the SNP refuse to take part in these superficial games at Westminster which are all about top show or, as my late great aunt Lizzie would bluntly observe, “all fur coat and no knickers”.

It’s quite clear the SNP refuse to take part in these superficial games at Westminster which are all about top show or, as my late great aunt Lizzie would bluntly observe, “all fur coat and no knickers”.

The good people of Aleppo deserved better than this grotesque pantomime on Tuesday and so do those of us living in Scotland. How much longer do we have to watch this Westminster charade and why does the mainstream media play along with the farce?

Courtesy: Commonspace