Middle East consensus?
Simon Danczuk, businessman, author and former MP, covers the UK’s political landscape amidst the Middle East crisis.
It seemed like a different kind of Prime Minister’s Questions this week. All about the war between Israel and Hamas, neither Keir Starmer nor Rishi Sunak attempted to directly score political points.
The format gave some advantage to Starmer, and he used it to good effect. The Leader of the Opposition usually asks six questions, but on this occasion, he made six broad statements giving his support for Israel, showing concern at the bombing of the Al Ahli Hospital, calling for an aid package for Gaza, and condemning antisemitism in the UK.
Sunak had prepared answers to difficult questions about the conflict, which weren’t forthcoming from Starmer. Consequently, the PM’s contributions were more responsive whilst Starmer’s were more statesmanlike.
It was instructive, and perhaps rather crass, that Starmer’s team pushed out snippets of his statements on social media – presumably believing it would show their leader in a good light. For Labour, even the trauma of war provides opportunities to gain the upper hand.
Hamas, terrorism, and the BBC
Whilst Labour is trying to have a ‘good war’, the British Broadcasting Corporation is having an appalling one. The BBC has refused to describe Hamas as terrorists, instead deciding to call them militants. This extremist Islamic group attacked, raped, murdered, and kidnapped hundreds of Israelis just days ago in what nearly everyone – except the BBC – describes as an act of terrorism. The Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, described the BBC’s position as “verging on disgraceful.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, our national broadcaster decided to take the word of Hamas when the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza was blown up, killing hundreds of civilians, just a couple of days ago. With no fact-checking and strong suggestions it may have been a stray Hamas rocket that caused the explosion, the BBC have had to amend their reporting of the incident.
BBC News gives the impression it is run by people firmly on the side of the Palestinians against the Israelis, as though they are trying to justify the actions of Hamas. It plays to the view that the BBC is stuffed with people on the political left.
This truly dreadful conflict in the Middle East should not become a political football here in the UK. One would hope that both our mainstream leaders and media can rise above trying to promote their own narrow agendas. We haven’t got off to a great start, let’s see how it goes.
Simon Danczuk is a businessman, author and former MP who represented the constituency of Rochdale between 2010 and 2017. He has co-written two books, Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith and Scandal at Dolphin Square.