Martin Salter put loyalty to Brown before loyalty to the Gurkhas

Reading has a significant number of Gurkha ex-servicemen and their families, and Reading Liberal Democrats have joined some politicians from other parties, including retiring Reading West Labour MP Martin Salter, and the current Mayor of Reading Cllr Peter Beard, in campaigning for Gurkha justice and better welfare for Gurkha families.

Yesterday was an historic day for the Ghurkas. Nick Clegg’s motion to grant these brave soldiers the right to live in Britain passed by 267 votes to 246. It was a victory for justice. Clegg was absolutely right to press Gordon Brown on the moral principle at stake during PMQs- namely, that if you are prepared to die for this country you should have the right to live here.

The depressingly familiar defence from a Government that has embraced xenophobia and nationalism was to employ their favourite bogeyman – “uncontrolled mass immigration”. Given that so many Ghurkas have laid down their lives over so many years this is incredibly disrespectful.

Consider, though, that the first half of the twentieth century was ravaged by two world wars, of which rampant nationalism and xenophobia were significant causes. Consider furthur that many of the Ghurkas who have served this country so bravely died in these wars. Herein lies the level to which Gordon Brown’s morally bankrupt government will stoop to prevent justice being done.

Nevertheless it was a significant day for the Ghurkas, and one on which I felt proud to be a Liberal Democrat. However in the rush to acknowledge those MPs from other parties who voted with us we should perhaps consider the decision of the chair of the all-party parliamentary group campaigning on behalf of the Ghurkas, one Martin Salter MP. The current Labour MP for Reading West abstained at the crucial point.

Fortunately the motion went through, but he was not to know. Salter was clearly prepared to sell out the Ghurkas and his parliamentary colleagues in a shameful act of betrayal. Quite frankly he should resign from his position as Chair. There is no other honourable course of action. Sadly I doubt that he will display even the slightest fraction of the dignity of the courageous Ghurkas who were rightly celebrating yesterday.

Patrick is Lib Dem PPC for Reading West.

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