Martin Hannan: Principles make Mike a hero

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote that every column should have a bogeyman, but occasionally a column should also have a hero. Step forward Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart.

I have to say that Mr Crockart had barely appeared on my radar before last week’s historic vote in the House of Commons which stopped Prime Minister David Cameron from committing what I believe would have been an illegal act – there is no proper basis in international law for attacking a country even if its leaders are using weapons of mass destruction on its own people.

In defying Cameron and his own party leader Nick Clegg, Mike Crockart kissed goodbye to any sort of ascent up the political ladder for the foreseeable future.

The former policeman had already proved himself to be a man of principle when he voted against the rise in tuition fees back in December 2010, which cost him his job as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Moore, our pathetic Scottish Secretary.

It could be argued that Crockart was only trying to save his political skin and give himself a chance to retain his seat at the next election, but hey, doing what you think your constituency voters would approve of might possibly be something that could catch on in politics.

Make no mistake, however, Crockart really did act in the best traditions of parliamentary democracy when he decided to vote against the coalition government’s motion and the Labour Party’s amendment.

I believe he really did wrestle with his conscience in what he called “one of the most difficult” decisions he has had to make as an MP.

In fact, I doubt if he will ever make a choice of such a difficult nature again.

He said it plainly afterwards, that both the Government and Labour were setting down a route that could lead to military intervention in Syria, and he was simply not prepared to support such action, given the UK’s recent mixed history of involvement in such wars and campaigns.

Crockart added: “I will be urging the Government to now put all its efforts into brokering a UN-led solution, and trying to get all factions in the country to the table in the Geneva peace talks. We must also work to ensure that the humanitarian situation in and around Syria is improved.”

That is the correct way forward at this time of crisis. Britain, the US and France are not the world’s policemen, and God alone knows what military strikes would provoke both in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

As yet we have no solid 100 per cent proof that the Assad regime deliberately targeted civilians with their horrendous weapons. Personally, I subscribe to the theory that there are factions within the regime who are beyond control and will use any and every weapon in their 
possession to beat off the rebels.

Yes, chemical weapons are abhorrent, and they are banned worldwide – no country should even have them in their arsenal. Yet they are no more abhorrent than nuclear missiles, and Britain cannot be morally superior to anyone while we possess Trident.

Meanwhile, this SNP member would just like to say to Mike Crockart that your career may be in the grubber but you can hold your head up high in Edinburgh.

Time to fine the bike lane drivers

I WOULD just like to add my tuppence-worth to the ongoing debate on whether there should be a law which makes motorists automatically responsible for collisions involving cyclists.

As someone who normally drives a car, but who has recently started riding a bike again, I can see both sides of the argument, and while Scott Hastings and his fellow campaigners who want such legislation appear to have a wealth of evidence in their favour, nevertheless I am reluctant to back any blanket catch-all law.

This I will say: we do not have enough rigorously policed cycle lanes across Scotland.

Start fining drivers who cross into cycle lanes and just as with bus lanes, they’ll soon get the message.

See ourselves as Irvine sees us

No-one can deny that the Trainspotting phenomenon started by Irvine Welsh cast a somewhat different light on perceptions of Edinburgh when they first appeared in book form 20 years ago.

The activities of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, Begbie and company as described by Welsh gave some of our then councillors the collywobbles.

Imagine their surprise – and I took great delight in telling them – when they discovered that Welsh was a council employee, and a very useful member of the housing department he was, too.

With his books, he has made people think differently about Edinburgh. That is no bad thing.

Hospital visits’ bad medicine

The fact that yet another bus lane is earning fortunes for the council becomes infuriating when you learn that the lane is outside our Royal Infirmary.

It’s not the main problem, however. The fact that the private finance initiative means that, practically alone in Scotland, people have to pay to park at the hospital is the real obscenity.


So we have learned that the bedroom tax hits Edinburgh’s poor harder than elsewhere in Scotland. Next week I will show you why it really, really hurts our fellow citizens.