I write this on the train as I head into Westminster. Now that the dust has settled after the evacuation of British nationals and entitled personnel from Afghanistan, I wanted to provide some form of perspective as someone who has spent much of his working life dealing with that troubled country and to commend those from the FCDO and MOD for their hard work.
Contrary to the nonsense published in the media, the ease with which the Taliban marched into Kabul was not foreseen. Many billions of pounds and dollars were spent propping up the Afghan Government and equipping the Afghan Army, so this is a failure of – and in – Afghanistan as much as anything else. Successive Labour and Conservative Governments have also invested huge political capital, blood, sweat, tears and lives in trying to establish a fair, democratic and peaceful nation so the fall of Kabul has come as a massive blow.
And let's not forget our Armed Forces, our veterans, those who paid the ultimate price, and their families for their many sacrifices. I do not believe that we could have realistically done much more as a nation and once it became obvious that the US did intend to honour the promises made in 2020 at the Doha Agreement, it was just not possible for NATO to remain in any realistic posture. And as much as we may not wish to, it is necessary for the US, UK and their allies to have a meaningful dialogue with the Taliban to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a haven to terrorism and that essential human rights are honoured.
Domestically, I am clear that the Government will continue to crack on with its aggressive policy agenda and fulfil its manifesto promises. There are many challenges but rescuing the economy after Covid-19, tackling our national debt, paying back the additional £410 billion borrowed during the pandemic, fighting inflation, getting people back into work, supporting business and tackling poverty will be at the top of the agenda. Regrettably, there is no magic wand for any of this, as we have seen with the Social Care Levy, and I do not believe as a politician in dressing it up, but we do need to be prepared for a bumpy ride, take collective responsibility, and fulfil what is necessary to plan for our future. The fact remains that we are living beyond our means and fiscal pragmatism is needed. It is also right that we are honest with the electorate about our economic challenges. This has little to do with party politics but about statecraft, leadership, and the ability to make tough decisions.
In Bracknell, I continue to visit as many schools, businesses, activities, and events as I can to best represent local interests in Westminster. The Bracknell Half Marathon was superb and I recently enjoyed meeting apprentices at Bracknell and Wokingham College, the excellent team at BM Provision Alt Provider in Birch Hill, multiple residents associations, Thames Valley Police, the British Legion in Crowthorne, Wildmoor Heath, RMA Sandhurst, the Bracknell BID, Bohunt School, the superb new development at Gorse Ride and so much more. I am also pressing Bracknell Forest Council to address a number of local issues, not least blue badges, SEN provision, poor accommodation, nuisance driving, road noise and anti-social behaviour. Thankfully, the team at Time Square is working hard to deliver a good service on behalf of those to whom they are responsible. Unbelievably, my team has also just topped 30,000 individual items of casework since being elected and we continue to do what we can to assist with specific issues and problems. The run in towards Christmas promises to be very demanding and I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can.