Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 3 February 2011

The unfolding events in Egypt have implications for all of us. This land of the pharaohs had an all-conquering civilisation while we were still scrabbling around in the mud in pre-Roman Britain.  But even in its reduced circumstances of modern times, the 80- million strong nation is the undisputed leader of the Arabic world and a hugely strategic player in the Middle East. Since the Second World War they have been run by dictators who have enjoyed support from the west, not least for keeping Islamic extremists under control.
Recent events in Tunisia seem to have triggered an outpouring of energy from the educated Egyptian middle classes as they see a chance for freedom.
If the current uprising leads to democracy being established, with free and fair elections and the rule of law, a free press and an independent judiciary, this will send a beacon of hope and a message of change throughout the entire region, every bit as significant as the Berlin wall coming down and all those former soviet countries in Eastern Europe becoming democracies. It takes years, decades even, to establish robust democracy, but many on the east of Europe are well on their way. How much safer would the whole world be for our children, if this could happen too in North Africa and the Middle East?
But just as easily Egypt could slide into a hard-line extremist Islamist regime which oppresses its own people and poses an even greater threat to the region. So the stakes are genuinely very high.
I observe these scenes with professional interest. One of my Westminster responsibilities, since the last election, has been to chair the Westminster Foundation for Democracy which is a cross party organisation that seeks to strengthen democracy in emerging countries. We are naturally following the dramatic events unravelling in Cairo very closely, ready to offer support if the building blocks fall down in the right way. Britain has a lot to offer the world in our experience of democracy (warts and all) and because of our historic global reach, and despite recent mistakes, our brand is strong and our Know-How sought after.
Some may say that we should be focusing on our own problems. True, but must never forget that in an increasingly inter-dependent world we have a sober duty to build peace and stability so that our children get a chance to live their lives in peace, as some of us have done.

posted by Gary @ 13:33