#RefugeesWelcome: The Shropshire Council (non) debate last Thursday leaves me saddened

Unfortunately, a scheduled debate at Shropshire Council on the refugee crisis was pulled at the last moment on Thursday. I am still very upset about this.

Three weeks ago, the Lib Dem group put a motion forward for a meeting of the full council. It called for the council to lobby the government and local MPs to get more action at a national level to ease the plight of the refugees. It also asked Shropshire Council to set up a non-political working group on how Shropshire can react to the crisis by accepting refugees.

By the time of the meeting, everything had moved on. Days after we submitted our motion, David Cameron had agreed to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years. Keith Barrow, leader of Shropshire Council, had announced a working party. After the first meeting of that working party, the Lib Dem group issued a revised motion that simply called for the council to make a proportional response to the refugee crisis, along with communities and other bodies in the county.

Unfortunately, Conservative cabinet member Claire Wild had submitted an alternative motion, which did nothing other than praise the leader for his work in setting up a working party and allocating an officer. Despite efforts on the sidelines of the meeting, she could not be persuaded to withdraw it.

We were faced with a debate about a public-spirited response to this humanitarian crisis turning into a political firefight. Keith Barrow suggested that I withdrew our motion, a proposal that brought supportive baying from the Tory benches. So I withdrew the motion. I don’t think I have ever done anything with such a heavy heart. But our work on refugees must remain non-political. A debate about whether it is better to make a public statement that we are committed to #RefugeesWelcome or wish to praise the council leader would not have been constructive.

I am saddened that councillors were denied the opportunity to express their support for refugees, or even say they are opposed to settling desperate Syrians in the county.

I was asked by the BBC after the meeting whether I had made the right decision to withdraw the motion. I said:

“Did I make the right decision? Yes, I think I did. Am I happy with the decision? No, I am not. But sometimes you have to make decisions that you are not happy with.”

Lib Dem group revised motion

The Council agrees that it will provide a proportional response to the refugee crisis and that it will work with central government, local partners and communities to aid refugees.

Councillor Claire Wild’s motion

This Council recognises the swift response of the Leader in setting up a Cross Working Group to look at this humanitarian crisis and also allocating a dedicated Officer to look into all aspects and work with the Cross Party Group.

refugee_crisis_in_six_minutes

14 thoughts on “#RefugeesWelcome: The Shropshire Council (non) debate last Thursday leaves me saddened

  1. Andy you rightly say that party politics should not play a part in trying to help with the refugee crisis yet Claire Wilds lickspittle and meaningless motion, so full of smug Tory self congratulation, is purely Party Political.
    By the way what update is there on the investigation into this wonderful Leader’s ‘alleged’ inappropriate behaviour?

  2. I am saddened by your revised motion Andy particularly as the phrase ‘proportional response’ is the usual response by which the USA justifies a military launch, which incidentally kills helpless civilians, against a terrorist group somewhere in the Middle East. Neither response prefaces its meaningless platitudes with the statement we all should have on our lips ‘We are horrified by the plight of the refugees whose lives are destroyed by the politicking in the Middle East. Shame on you Andy – no shame on the Tories – just what I would expect from them.

  3. I am saddened by your revised motion Andy particularly as the phrase ‘proportional response’ is the usual response by which the USA justifies a military launch, which incidentally kills helpless civilians, against a terrorist group somewhere in the Middle East. Neither response prefaces its meaningless platitudes with the statement we all should have on our lips ‘We are horrified by the plight of the refugees whose lives are destroyed by the politicking in the Middle East. Shame on you Andy – no shame on the Tories – just what I would expect from them.

  4. Joyce, I take considerable offence and I am utterly outraged at your likening my diplomatic language to military action. The Americans do not own our language and are not the sole interpreters of it. Neither are you. My opposition to bombing for peace is well know.

    We can’t play politics with refugees. This is not about scoring political points. Our task as local councillors is to prepare to take refugees and to welcome them. But even the phrase “proportional response” was too much for Keith Barrow who said he was concerned it might to commit the council to spending money.

    Just blasting at other people doesn’t always achieve what you want to achieve. That’s why our motion was written the way it was. And even then, it failed.

  5. I have emailed a reference to an Obama speech in which he uses the phrase ‘proportional representation’ which illustrates the common usage of these words – just check out on google; It is vital that we make a careful choice of language particularly when we are entrusted to represent the views of our constituents. At no time was there a reference to your stance on bombing for peace, my quarrel is with the choice of your language and your capitulation by abandoning your original decent proposal which, as you say, had no impact on the Shropshire Conservative group.

  6. I have emailed a reference to an Obama speech in which he uses the phrase ‘proportional representation’ which illustrates the common usage of these words – just check out on google; It is vital that we make a careful choice of language particularly when we are entrusted to represent the views of our constituents. At no time was there a reference to your stance on bombing for peace, my quarrel is with the choice of your language and your capitulation by abandoning your original decent proposal which, as you say, had no impact on the Shropshire Conservative group.

  7. sorry Andy – an error – the phrase should be ‘proportional response. not proportional representation’

    Joyce

  8. sorry Andy – an error – the phrase should be ‘proportional response. not proportional representation’

    Joyce

  9. That’s wrong Joyce. Our original proposal centered on the council setting up a working group on refugees. That group is under way. Would that have happened without our original proposal? Maybe, but I doubt it.

    Language needs to be interpreted in context. We could spend our lives fretting about what words might mean rather than what they actually mean.

    I am not playing political or word games with refugees. We need to concentrate on helping people not making political and politically correct points.

  10. That’s wrong Joyce. Our original proposal centered on the council setting up a working group on refugees. That group is under way. Would that have happened without our original proposal? Maybe, but I doubt it.

    Language needs to be interpreted in context. We could spend our lives fretting about what words might mean rather than what they actually mean.

    I am not playing political or word games with refugees. We need to concentrate on helping people not making political and politically correct points.

  11. Andy, if you think I would choose to play word games rather than putting energy behind an effort to offer genuine help to people who seek refuge from war and oppression you for sure know little about me – take a look at the column I write in this week’s advertiser.
    Might try to waylay you at this evening’s Town Council meeting.

  12. Andy, if you think I would choose to play word games rather than putting energy behind an effort to offer genuine help to people who seek refuge from war and oppression you for sure know little about me – take a look at the column I write in this week’s advertiser.
    Might try to waylay you at this evening’s Town Council meeting.

  13. So Keith Barrow is afraid that helping refugees ‘might commit the Council to spending money’! So his much publicized largesse, and the cudos his acolytes in the cabinet give it, is just just a load of self serving hot air, aimed at getting Brownie points from the local press. Pass the sick bucket!

Comments are closed.