Friday, 25 February 2011

Tory MPs strangely quiet on THIS botched evacuation

It's Easter 2010. The sun is shining. The country is already bored to tears with the election campaign. Nick Clegg is about to become humungously popular thanks to the first televised debate between party leaders, and will go on to surf a huge wave of popular support for, ooh, about three weeks before becoming the Most Hated Man in Britain.

Meanwhile, the skies over Britain are empty of everything except birds and Icelandic volcanic ash. An estimated 150,000 Britons are stranded across Europe, struggling to get home via taxis, buses, bicycles and ferries. And the Tories are not happy. They think the Labour government has failed to get a grip on the situation and is not doing enough to get stranded Brits home. Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers has a lot to say about the issue:

"Those who are stranded abroad need reassurance from the Government that they are doing all they can to help get people home and address the crisis."

"Stranded Britons abroad need a clear assurance from the Government that there is a strategy in place to help them and bring them home, but a number of issues are not clear and we have not had a detailed public statement from ministers [for two days] ... clarity from Gordon Brown and his ministers is essential ... How many British citizens are stranded overseas? Where are they stranded? How many days does the govt estimate it will take them to return home?"

"We saw real concerns with the government's lack of action in terms of taking action to rescue people while the skies were closed. It took them far too long to get their act together on that. We need to ask some searching questions about the judgments made by the government."

"People stranded abroad need to know all that can be done to help them is being done."

Tobias Ellwood, then shadow tourism minister, accused the government of "dithering" in its duty to help citizens stranded abroad.

Fast forward just under 12 months, and instead of volcanic ash there's a cloud of protest and revolution settling across north Africa.

Things are really kicking off in Libya, where around 500 British citizens live. Many other European countries evacuated their people as soon as the fighting broke out, but Britain's response has been less than efficient - so much so that David Cameron has felt the need to apologise and the Daily Mail has branded the whole situation "a farce". Things are so bad that even Richard Littlejohn feels able to criticise the state of affairs.

The ash cloud closed airspace for six days and left up to 150,000 people stranded. It is now seven days since the first protests began in Libya, creating a need to evacuate up to 500 people, but Theresa Villiers and Tobias Ellwood have yet to complain about the PM failing to act quickly enough to help stranded Britons. Could it be that they've realised being in government isn't as easy as it looks from the outside?

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