November 2019: News from your local MP
Time to reflect on the values we need to play our part in the world
The topic of the day is, of course, our relationship with the EU, and I’m writing this the day before our special Parliamentary sitting to debate and vote on the Prime Minister’s deal. I’ll be voting against it, as it’s even worse for jobs, rights and the environment than the last PM’s deal. But, by the time you read this, many more things will have happened to make whatever I write here about Brexit out of date.
So, instead, I’m writing about values and our role in the world, whatever the outcome of the Brexit votes.
Last week I was back in Parliament listening to a disappointing Queen’s Speech – plenty of warm words that showed a general election is on the horizon, but woefully short of commitment to real action. It lacked any meaningful content on foreign affairs or climate change, for example. In the week of debates that followed the Queen’s Speech, I spoke on the day themed ‘Britain’s Place in the World’. I urged the government to reflect on how our values should and could inform every aspect of our foreign and international development policy.
Yes, British values taught in schools (democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for different beliefs) are all vital and I support them all. But in the 21st century, and the world as it is, we should also have human rights, equality and environmentalism as values underpinning everything in our relationships with the rest of the world.
Environmentalism – because we’re in a climate emergency which needs us to speed up and increase the pioneering role the UK has taken already. We must cooperate closely with countries across the world, so we all do better and act faster.
Equality – because everyone should have the chance to reach their potential; and it’s good for all of us when that happens.
Human Rights – because there’s terrible suffering in the world, despite international agreements on the standards we should adhere to. The UK already does a great deal to help refugees or solve other global problems such an anti-microbial resistance, but we should live out our value of human rights by highlighting and prioritising these concerns.
In my speech, I used these two examples because both are global problems with massive impact and the cost of not tackling them is high. But we should also help to solve them because it’s the right thing to do.
Our values are what get us up in the morning and what motivate us. We may fall short, but we should always pick ourselves up again. Our values can take us beyond our differences and our fears.
Whatever happens with Brexit, all global crises need us to look outwards, not just inwards. Living up to the values of equality, human rights and environmentalism will help us to show ourselves, and the world, who we really are.
(You can watch my whole speech on my website: www.debbonaire.co.uk )