Encourages ties between UK and Kurdistan
Nadhim Zahawi, member of the UK Parliament:
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.