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La Sainte pupils understood the issue - do world's leaders?

PUBLISHED: 15:30 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 September 2010

Setting aside the somewhat fevered Westminster speculations on what will, or will not, feature on the Chancellor s PBR, two cities have been the focus of political debate, both inside and outside the House. They are, of course, Kabul and Copenhagen. Now

Setting aside the somewhat fevered Westminster speculations on what will, or will not, feature on the Chancellor's PBR, two cities have been the focus of political debate, both inside and outside the House. They are, of course, Kabul and Copenhagen.

Now that the decision has been made, not only by the UK and US, but apparently, all our NATO allies, that increased troop numbers plus their necessary support systems, are heading for Afghanistan, the pros and cons have increased in volume.

Inevitably, given the Chilcot inquiry, the disaster of the Iraq war is bleeding into the views of whether Afghanistan is a winnable, or even a worthy, battle in which to engage.

I have no doubt that we can defeat the insurgents, and am even more certain that we must. But I am equally clear that military action alone cannot bring peace, which is why the strategic changes, concentrating on making civilian safety a priority and building on the development successes (of which there are than most of the reporting of the conflict would have us believe) are vital.

Of course, we cannot impose our views of what constitutes a democratic model for this or any other country, but we can, by example, try to persuade. And the determination to see President Karzai deliver on his commitment to eradicate endemic corruption is to be welcomed and supported.

Whether there should be an absolute timeline for our withdrawal is another hotly debated topic, but the clear commitment to hand over to the ANA following increased assistance in both training and mentoring and an equal increase in the training of the Afghan police force, make it clear that NATO has no intention of decades of involvement, nor cutting and running and betraying the people of Afghanistan yet again.

Space precludes my doing anything more than touching on the importance of our not walking away, for the security of Pakistan. She is a nuclear power, suffering grievously from the activities of terrorists, while playing her part in the Afghan problem. It may seem a conflict a long way away, but if we don't stand up against the murderers of, in the main, innocents, that distance may shrink.

Copenhagen is physically closer than Kabul, but post email-gate as the PM put it, 'flat-earthers' have had a field-day. Yet the overwhelming body of international scientists are united in their clear evidence based opinion, that the world is warming at an alarming rate and human-kind is the driving force in this upward spiral.

At a Q&A session with pupils at La Sainte Union School last week, I was left in no doubt of their concerns, nor of their wide-ranging knowledge of this issue. As indeed most young people have, certainly in my experience. Added to their concerns, is a sense of impatient bemusement that the supposed 'grown-ups' are taking so long to come to a practical, workable, verifiable, legally binding solution, but there are no age limits to that view.

So the two weeks in Copenhagen with all its delegates - virtually every country in the world being represented and every world leader attending - promises to be the most important fortnight in world history.

If a comprehensive deal is struck and certainly we're hearing optimistic rumblings, it will be a victory, not only for logic and reason, but for all those who have campaigned so long and hard over these issues. And despite recent opinion polls, that's probably the majority of the world's population. Perhaps in both Kabul and Copenhagen we'll see, to quote, not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

On a more personal note, I see one of my wannabe-an-MP opponents has dubbed me the laziest girl in town. Well, if his definition of work is sitting for hours on those green benches, to possibly address a virtually empty chamber, in a debate to which no-one listens and whose conclusions will not affect, for good or ill, the lives of our constituents, I am guilty as charged and likely to reoffend! But then, like all women, I know the difference between real and pretend work. We do so much of it.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all the compliments of the season, and a happy and peaceful New Year.

q Glenda Jackson is the Labour MP for Hampstead & Highgate


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