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What would you do?

What would you do about the hostages in Iraq? At least twelve Britons are being held hostage there by Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIL. David Haines was beheaded and Alan Henning could be next. A new ISIL video features war reporter John Cantlie condemning American air strikes against them, apparently under duress.

The air strikes continue in Iraq and now in Syria. America has been joined by five Arab nations and Britain could sign up soon. The Iraqi Government has formally asked for Britain’s help. Parliament has been recalled on Friday and the three party leaders have all indicated support for airstrikes on ISIL forces in Iraq but not Syria. Public opinion is also more open to them because of the hostages, the involvement of Arab nations and Iraq’s request. There is no intention to put troops on the ground and if this changed Parliament’s approval would be sought.

Mr Cameron, in New York on Wednesday to address the United Nations, also met President Obama to discuss plans for UK to join the airstrikes. Surprisingly he also met Iranian President Rouhani to discuss the crisis and encourage Iran to join the allies in bolstering the new Iraqi Government. This was the first such contact since 1979 and surprising because of Iran’s support for Syria’s President Assad and its own nuclear ambitions. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Negotiation with ISIL is impossible and military action is a last resort. We can pray for rapid success, a minimum loss of civilian lives and the release of the hostages. Their families also need our prayers.

It is party conference season again. The parties will take it in turns to tell you how they will make your life better and Britain greater.  Labour went first and promised to raise the minimum wage to £8 per hour by 2020. It is currently £6.31 and expected to rise automatically to £7.50 by 2020.  Set against this Labour would keep the £26,000 benefits cap, freeze child benefit for two years and abolish the married couples’ tax allowance introduced by the Coalition.  Ed Balls pledged to be tough on spending and to eliminate the remaining deficit. That said, £2.5 billion extra would be pumped into the NHS, funded by a mansions tax on properties worth £2 million plus. He also plans to close tax loopholes on hedge funds and increase taxes on tobacco companies.

In his leader’s speech Ed Miliband described the British economy and society as broken because if you are poor or on a zero-hours contract ‘you are on your own’. He wants us to create a Britain in which we all work together and all share in the rewards of success we achieve. Miliband is an atheist but working together is a Christian idea. To achieve it will mean moving away from the individualist and consumerist culture that currently dominates British society and that could take longer than the ten years he wants us to give him. Whoever is in power we could pray for that change.


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