Wednesday 22 June 2011

A weak view of the world

You may think this is strange sentence for me to be writing, but last month, I found myself in a church inside a prison with TV cameras turned on. I appeared on the BBC programme Question Time.

For the first time ever, it was filmed inside a prison, in this case Wormword Scrubs. Prisoners as well as guards and prison staff were part of the audience. Ken Clarke was on the panel and, after his rape comments that week, it was lining up to be a very interesting hour of debate. (He is since hitting the headlines again, but only because all that was discussed at that QT is null and void it would seem)

Queuing up for the security prior to the programme, I realised just how well the BBC get a mixed bag of audience members. From sight to snippets of conversations, the diversity of age, race, background and affiliation really struck and pleased me.

Filming flew by and Ken Clarke got away without a ribbing. Obviously, the majority of the debates centred around justice, prisons and rehabilitation. They weren't topics I have burning passions for, but it was interesting to hear the points of views of the prisoners themselves; and the guards who truly wanted the best for their charges once they were released.

The most interesting moment, however, was the question about international aid. Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail columnist was on the panel (she had actually incurred boos when they all came on, but the cameras don't capture those moments). Her belief is that every penny earned in the UK should stay on these shores. In fact, if she was in charge, she would "shut the whole Department for Internatioanl Development".

Surprisingly, some audience members agreed with her. I didn't and don't.

If there's one thing I would always want to say we can do as a nation, is to help those worse off than us. Money to help farmers in Pakistan with the floods; experts to the Caribbean following earthquakes; support to Japan post tsunami: these actions are not those of someone trying to police the world (though others of our actions could be seen to be). These are actions which show that when our international neighbours need help, regardless of their political banner, we are there. If my neighbour needs help, I will do so. Because, if I needed a hand, I would hope someone would help me.

Treat people, all people, the same. It is not their fault when there is a bad government/natural disaster involved. To ignore their plight when we are in a position to help is a disgusting reaction. To turn your back in the face of genuine suffering is simply nasty.

To say "no" when you can say "yes" is just weak.

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