Of all the strange goings-on that I’ve witnessed since being elected as an MP, few have filled me with such despair as seeing the United Kingdom government’s approach to the plight of child refugees in Europe.
During a debate last week the government tried to justify to parliament why it was abandoning a commitment to resettle thousands of refugee children under the Dubs amendment, after taking in a mere 350.
To watch politicians in one of the richest countries in the world walk away from orphaned or abandoned children is an outrage. It tells you everything you need to know about the moral character of those who hold power at Westminster.
Rather than making a stand and doing the right thing, they’re running scared of a right-wing press that has stoked up a deeply-troubling suspicion towards those fleeing conflict and persecution.
There can be no question, as some commentators have suggested, over whether these are “the right kind of people”.
Children are always the right kind of people.
The numbers taken in under the Dubs amendment works out at less than two children per council, so the idea that there is no capacity across the UK is simply not credible.
Some MPs described offering sanctuary to these children as a “pull factor”, with the potential to encourage more refugees to make the perilous journey from the Middle East.
We have to challenge the deeply flawed logic of that argument. These people are fleeing conflict – the government would be as well claiming that building hospitals is an incentive for sickness or that providing a fire service only encourages arsonists.
Worst of all, the closing off of official schemes that allow safe access to the most vulnerable is complicit in creating exactly the kind of limbo and chaos that allows people trafficking to prosper.
So we also have to ask ourselves a bigger question – do we want to live in a country that sees generosity and openness as a vice?
In the greatest era of forced migration since the Second World War, the moral failure behind this move will be remembered as an act of extreme political cowardice.
But I don’t think it’s an attitude that accurately reflects who we are. I’m constantly reminded that people are always more than willing to help out those in need.
I’ve recently seen this spirit alive and well in the remarkable work of local charities. Take Heads Together, which assists people recovering from brain injuries.
I was delighted to welcome the arrival of its new bus, which has only been possible due to the generosity of the local community. The effort and time that has gone into fundraising for the charity is something to behold. I’ve been especially impressed by Steve Turnbull who is absolutely tireless in his work as chairman.
Helping those in need is a mark of strength, not weakness.
So I’m proud to represent a region that takes pride in offering a hand of kindness.
I just wish this government would do the same.