En­cour­ages ties be­tween UK and Kur­dis­tan

Nad­him Za­hawi, mem­ber of the UK Par­lia­ment:

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL -

es­pe­cially mi­nori­ties. Civilised so­ci­eties are judged by how they deal with their mi­nori­ties and how they pro­tect those mi­nori­ties, as op­posed to the wishes of the ma­jor­ity. I think it is very im­por­tant that all Iraqi politi­cians re­mem­ber that and it is very im­por­tant that those in­sti­tu­tions are en­hanced and sup­ported. What I mean by that is rule of law and an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, one that is in no way in­flu­enced by politi­cians and pol­i­tics.

In the UK, no­body in their right mind would dream that a judge would make a de­ci­sion based on who is in government and want­ing to please that party in government. This needs to be the same in Iraq, so peo­ple can trust the ju­di­ciary; they have to feel that the ju­di­ciary is truly in­de­pen­dent. An in­de­pen­dent and ro­bust me­dia that is also re­spon­si­ble needs to be es­tab­lished, and pro­tected from the state and other ar­eas of government. The sooner that Iraq and its po­lit­i­cal groups con­tinue that jour­ney, the bet­ter it is for the whole of Iraq.

Kosovo, South Su­dan are just re­cent ex­am­ples of new states as­sum­ing their right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and been sup­port by the likes of the UK and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity while Kur­dis­tan has been cru­elly de­nied, as we say in English is “what’s good for the gan­der, good for the geese”?

I think the right to self­de­ter­mi­na­tion is a ba­sic hu­man right. You look at what we are do­ing here in our own union, where the Scot­tish peo­ple and the rul­ing power of Scot­land, the Scot­tish Na­tion­al­ist Party, have cam­paigned on a plat­form of in­de­pen­dence and wanted a ref­er­en­dum. Of course, my government here, led by David Cameron, recog­nised that and have granted a ref­er­en­dum. In the end I think that you will find the ma­jor­ity of the Scot­tish peo­ple will choose to re­main within the union be­cause they see the strength of the union and the union as some­thing in­cred­i­bly valu­able. But they have that right and to deny that right to any hu­man been would be wrong.

In say­ing that, I also think that as far as the UK is con­cerned, in its fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing Kur­dis­tan, in mak­ing sure that peo­ple have good jobs to go to, chil­dren have great schools to go to, when peo­ple are ill they have a fan­tas­tic health ser­vice that looks af­ter them, the el­derly and frail are well looked af­ter, there is eco­nomic dy­namism, the econ­omy is grow­ing. If you look at na­tions around the world, none was more bat­tered and bruised than the Ger­man peo­ple or the Ja­panese peo­ple af­ter the Sec­ond World War, and the way they picked them­selves up was through eco­nomic devel­op­ment and growth. The way they be­come world beat­ers is through the un­der­stand­ing that if you are eco­nom­i­cally pow­er­ful, then you have a seat at the ta­ble, you mat­ter in the world.

I wouldn’t be ar­ro­gant enough to ad­vise the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in Kur­dis­tan, other than to say they are do­ing the right thing in fo­cus­ing on eco­nomic devel­op­ment and mak­ing sure that build­ing block is in place for them to then be able to be­gin to con­sider is­sues like self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and what the Kur­dish peo­ple ul­ti­mately dream of.

Ap­proach­ing 3 years since been elected Strat­ford-on-Avon, how do you look back on your time and achieve­ments to date?

Strat­ford-on-Avon is a won­der­ful con­stituency. It has 79 vil­lages and ham­lets, won­der­ful mar­ket towns, and of course the great town of Strat­ford-upon-Avon where that ex­tra­or­di­nary poet and play­wirght, Wil­liam Shake­speare was born and where his rest­ing place lies.

I have had al­most 3 years here, you're quite right. I have fo­cused on my Se­lect Com­mit­tee work, the Busi­ness In­no­va­tion and Skills Se­lect Com­mit­tee, be­cause my back­ground as a busi­ness­man be­fore en­ter­ing this place was run­ning a pub­lic com­pany here in the UK. Un­der­stand­ing the in­no­va­tion space helped me to be elected to that Se­lect Com­mit­tee. By the way, for the first time in the his­tory of our par­lia­ment, the Se­lect Com­mit­tee was elected as op­posed to ap­pointed, which gives us a stronger man­date be­cause if they were ap­pointed then se­nior­ity may have played a big­ger role. Se­lect com­mit­tees are very im­por­tant in our par­lia­men­tary sys­tem. So that for me has been a ma­jor achieve­ment.

I or­gan­ised and led a re­bel­lion against my own government, which one must not do too of­ten if one wants to progress, but I felt that the House of Lords re­form bill was not one that I could sup­port. I don't think that abol­ish­ing the House of Lords and re­plac­ing it with an elected Se­nate would have pro­duced a bet­ter and health­ier democ­racy. You only have to ask the Amer­i­cans what they think of their Se­nate and Congress and the dead­lock that they get in their sys­tem to see that it isn't par­tic­u­larly healthy for de­ci­sion mak­ing and democ­racy. I re­belled on that with the sup­port of my lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion and my con­stituents; there were many let­ters and emails from them sup­port­ing my po­si­tion.

Other than that sin­gle re­bel­lion, I work to pro­mote and sup­port my government. We are do­ing some very im­por­tant work here in re­form­ing the government. Re­mem­ber in 2010, the UK was bor­row­ing some­thing like a £160 bil­lion pounds a year, that’s the deficit. That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween what we were get­ting in terms of tax in­take into the ex­che­quer, be­cause of course, the government doesn’t have its own money, and it’s yours and my money that we spend in government. Now, we have re­duced that deficit down to £120 bil­lion or so, ba­si­cally by a quar­ter. Nev­er­the­less, if you do the arith­metic, we are still bor­row­ing £426 mil­lion pounds a day. So ev­ery time you got to bed and wake up, we notch up an­other £426 mil­lion in debt. That’s what we in­her­ited, an eco­nomic mess from the pre­vi­ous government.

We are try­ing to sort that out, we are try­ing to shrink the size of government debt, fo­cus spend­ing on those who need it most, and look at re­form­ing wel­fare, again fo­cus­ing on peo­ple who need it most but also mak­ing sure that work al­ways pays. You will see the pi­lot coming in April with some­thing called Uni­ver­sal Credit. The re­forms in ed­u­ca­tion have also been ex­tra­or­di­nary. If you look at what the Sec­re­tary of State for Ed­u­ca­tion, Michael Gove has been do­ing, free­ing up schools so that the head­mas­ter and the gov­ern­ing bod­ies can make real de­ci­sions and so par­ents know ex­actly who is in charge makes a real dif­fer­ence. So if there is a fail­ure in the sys­tem, they know who to go to and there is an in­di­vid­ual that is re­spon­si­ble. It’s the head teacher and the gov­ern­ing board, not some face­less bu­reau­crat in lo­cal government or in White­hall. The changes also al­low them to use their bud­gets where they need to use them and where they can, if they want to, pay ex­tra bonuses for great teach­ers to come into the school who have done par­tic­u­larly well.

We started in 2010 with around 200 acad­e­mies and now we have over 2200, and of course balancing the books, re­form­ing ed­u­ca­tion and wel­fare are the 3 ma­jor poli­cies. I think that in 2015 we will be judged on those. If we have de­liv­ered on those 3 things, then our prospects of win­ning an elec­tion out­right will be in­cred­i­bly high.

As an MP, what are the key items on your agenda in the UK po­lit­i­cal sphere? Fi­nally, what are your per­sonal po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions?

Per­son­ally, I want to be known as the sec­re­tary of state for Strat­ford-On- Avon, this is my am­bi­tion. I said that to my as­so­ci­a­tion, when they se­lected me as their can­di­date to be their MP. I have a won­der­ful con­stituency; I think the best in the Eng­land. The heart of Eng­land as it’s re­ferred to. I want to be able to serve my con­stituents and make sure that their voices are heard in West­min­ster. So that’s my goal.

In terms of my fo­cus, we are half-way through the par­lia­ment, so the next half of par­lia­ment is all about de­liv­ery and all about im­ple­men­ta­tion. So my work in the se­lect com­mit­tee is mak­ing sure for ex­am­ple that the Busi­ness de­part­ment, which looks af­ter univer­sity tuition fees as well as busi­ness and UKTI, is is do­ing well. In terms of re­forms in tuition fees, the ev­i­dence at the moment points to­wards a real success story in terms of the re­forms we have put through to en­sure that our univer­si­ties con­tinue to be well beat­ers.

If you look at our rep­u­ta­tion around the world, we are sec­ond only to Amer­ica in terms of our univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. Kur­dis­tan has been one of our ma­jor clients, in fact Kur­dis­tan has sent over 1250 stu­dents to the UK on schol­ar­ships.

Many se­nior politi­cians in Kur­dis­tan in­clud­ing Min­istry of For­eign Re­la­tions, Kak Falah, who was a scholar here, did their ed­u­ca­tion in the UK. Kak Barham was ed­u­cated here, and Kak Di­lawar who was the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion be­fore was at Not­ting­ham Univer­sity. Wher­ever you go in the world, not just in Kur­dis­tan, but as far as Malaysia to Brazil, se­nior politi­cians, and se­nior busi­ness peo­ple will say I went to a univer­sity in your coun­try in Eng­land. So it’s a very im­por­tant ex­port for us.

I think if ev­ery politi­cian and all the Se­lect Com­mit­tees are fo­cused on those things, so the Trea­sury Se­lect Com­mit­tee, the Health Se­lect Com­mit­tee, ed­u­ca­tion and wel­fare de­part­ments are all fo­cused on de­liv­ery then we will be in a good po­si­tion come 2015 to point to the de­liv­ery on the ground for peo­ple that put us here to serve them.

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron walks with Con­ser­va­tive MP Nad­him Za­hawi at the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence dur­ing a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view on Oc­to­ber 5, 2010 in Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land.

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