The brutal murder of the American journalist Steven Sotloff in Iraq dominated Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He said “Britain will never give in to terrorism. If they think we will weaken in the face of their threats they are wrong. It will have the opposite effect. We will be more forthright in the defence of the values – liberty under the rule of law, freedom and democracy -we hold dear.”
Ed Miliband shared the PM’s revulsion at the execution and expressed concern for the British hostage who could be their next victim. He asked about humanitarian aid for those fleeing the Islamic State killers and what was being done to mobilise other countries to contribute. The PM responded that this is our first priority. Our role is to support countries in the region resisting the jihadists, not to launch a western led intervention.
Another priority is protecting us all from extremism in this country. British citizens guilty of atrocities would be prosecuted if they returned. Legislation will be introduced to empower the Government to remove their UK citizenship. The Communities Department and the Home Office would share responsibility for the Prevent programme, to keep young people in the minority communities from being radicalised.
Douglas Carswell’s resignation from the Conservatives to join UKIP last week highlighted the coming battle over EU membership. Recent polls show that 48% want to leave and 37% want to stay in the EU. If Cameron can renegotiate the return of some powers to Westminster 42% would vote to stay and 36% to leave.
Advocates of staying observe that 50% of UK trade is with the EU. They would impose tariffs on our exports and leaving could mean losing 3 million UK jobs. The quitters deny this and say the EU sells us more than we sell them. They assume we could negotiate favourable terms with the EU like Norway and Switzerland but their opponents say this is naïve. Moreover, we would still have to obey EU rules without any say in framing them. The U.S.A. and other major nations want us to stay in for strategic and foreign policy reasons and say that outside Europe we would lose influence internationally. There are also issues such as fisheries, crime, drugs, environment and climate control on which European collaboration remains necessary.
These issues should matter to us all and Christians need to include them in our prayers. What is happening in Iraq is unquestionably evil and to adapt the well-known saying, evil triumphs when good people do nothing. At the very least we can pray for the family of Steven Sotloff as they grieve for their murdered son. He was an experienced journalist and had done nothing to offend the Islamic faith. The other hostages who probably face the same fate also need our prayers as do their families. The debate about Europe is a different kind of issue but we might pray for an honest debate and for wisdom about how to vote in the election and the referendum, if it ever happens.