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GLENDA JACKSON: Great dignity in face of Haiti earthquake disaster

PUBLISHED: 15:35 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 07 September 2010

Having been snowbound for days, mine was one of the voices raised in bemused disbelief that a country the size of ours could be so quickly brought to a standstill. Then Haiti happened and I swore I would never complain about anything ever again. But of co

Having been snowbound for days, mine was one of the voices raised in bemused disbelief that a country the size of ours could be so quickly brought to a standstill. Then Haiti happened and I swore I would never complain about anything ever again. But of course I will. And of course, I should, because if we don't ask why, or why not, if we simply accept whatever is thrown at us, the human condition will never improve.

Perhaps the tragedy of Haiti, that terrible natural disaster, will be the trigger that concentrates not only hearts, but minds, on how the long-term conditions in Haiti can be improved.

The world response in the short-term - rescue teams, humanitarian aid, planes, helicopters etc, - has been profound and immediate. Well, the giving has, but the actual distribution has come in for criticism. But Haiti isn't a disaster movie, it's real. Really dirt poor, without roads and rails or infrastructure, and really without government.

That the people haven't become a feral mob speaks volumes for their real courage, dignity and faith. And if the world community keeps its promise to help rebuild not only the shattered buildings and lives, but a country able to prosper and thrive, and offer its citizens a positive future, the Haitians will be more than capable of developing those possibilities. And the rest of us must make sure those promises of long-term, sustained assistance are kept.

Our Government has always understood the need for international aid and development and by 2012 we will meet the 0.7 per cent UN aid benchmark in aid, helping to increase education, health services, clean water and sanitation, playing our part in really making poverty history.

With the added burden of climate change, never has committed support of the developing world been more important. Something the people of the UK understand and support.

The leader of the opposition has dubbed our country 'broken Britain'. Yet, in less than seven days, £134 million had flooded into the DEC relief fund. The response was immediate, as it has been after all such terrible disasters, and I have no doubt always will be.

Britain is not broken. The recessions has not brought, as some predicted, an increase in crime. Indeed, the most recent quarterly update, including data from both the British Crime Survey and the police recorded figures show burglary down and robbery down by eight and nine per cent respectively, car crime down by 20 per cent and overall since 1997, domestic burglary down by 54 per cent, and crime overall down by 36 per cent.

Those who forecast a crimewave probably based their forecasts on the recessions of the 80s and early 90s, when the PM of the day said, in effect, the markets must decide, and the then Chancellor said, of unemployment of three million, if memory serves (and it does!) 'if it isn't hurting, it isn't working'.

Our Government has taken a very different view, and instituted very different policies, investing to help the country through this tough time, not walking away. An example is the additional £20million targeting priority areas, nipping burglary and robbery in the bud.

q Glenda Jackson is the Labour MP for

Hampstead & Highgate


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