Council not the forum for Iraq debate

WHEN I was at university, student union meetings were a strange mixture of debates.One minute you'd be voting on whether to change the beer in the union bar, and the next you'd be debating whether to support liberation movements in Zimbabwe.

WHEN I was at university, student union meetings were a strange mixture of debates.

One minute you'd be voting on whether to change the beer in the union bar, and the next you'd be debating whether to support liberation movements in Zimbabwe.

There was a bit of that feeling at Ipswich council's full meeting last week.

The meeting was, in many ways, the most crucial of the year in that it set the council tax that all the town's residents will be paying over the next 12 months.


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It was the first time for many years I'd missed the budget debate – but I'm assured I didn't miss an sparkling arguments (why am I not surprised to hear that).

But then once all that business was settled, the council held a debate on the war in Iraq and passed the following motion:

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"This Council, recognising the major concern that exists in Ipswich about a war of offence against Iraq, believes that recourse to war should only be as a last resort; that political and diplomatic channels have not yet been exhausted, and does not support any military action unless sanctioned by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council, and this decision should be conveyed to Her Majesty's Government."

I know war in Iraq is an issue that concerns a lot of people – and the vast majority of Ipswich residents will support the tone of that motion.

But what on earth has it got to do with Ipswich council?

Ipswich council's job is to make sure the town's borough services are well-run for the benefit of the people.

If councillors, or anyone else for that matter, want to make their point about the war with Iraq they should write to their MP, write letters to the Star, organise marches, hand out leaflets.

But what on earth is the point in passing meaningless motions at already-lengthy council meetings.

I can just see Tony Blair in conversation with Alastair Campbell on Thursday morning: "Alastair, I can stand up to the French, I can stand up to the Russians, I'm prepared to give Saddam hell, but now Ipswich is opposed to the war we'll call the troops home straight away!"

Get real! Council meetings should be for council business, not meaningless ego trips for local politicians with an over-inflated sense of their own importance.

DO you remember about a year ago I wrote about a rumour that was being spread about asylum seekers being given money by the county council to buy cars?

It's resurfaced again – but now I've managed to find out a bit more where it started.

Apparently this was first spread around the north west of England about three years ago, even before refugees and asylum seekers were a hot political issue.

It was started by the British National Party in an attempt to stir up hatred between refugees, the ethnic minorities, and the white population in Lancashire.

And it seems to have worked – albeit to a very limited extent.

The BNP has managed to win a handful of council seats in the area – and seems set to keep up the pressure on minority groups there.

No one is saying that the appearance of this rumour in Suffolk means the BNP is going to repeat its election success in this part of the world.

But the fact that the rumours are flying around here suggests to me that there must be some kind of racist activity to get it going in the first place.

And of course it's not to say that everyone who's heard the rumour – or even passed it on to someone else – is a BNP member.

But the next time you hear about a group of asylum seekers being offered £2,000 to buy a second hand car from someone at the bar, in the queue for the bank or wherever, remember where the rumour started!

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