While in Afghanistan with Labour Leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander I heard first hand some of our Forces' worries. All of this should be unacceptable to every British person, family and community. Those who risk all in the dangers of Helmand Province and beyond should do so with the peace of mind about support back home.
I think I may have been living in a war zone for too long, and it is taking its toll. Before Christmas I was talking with a friend who had been working in regions of conflict exclusively for 10 years and he described that there are something like 59 symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he exhibited 43 of them.
At a women's shelter I saw some of the consequences of Afghanistan's ingrained patriarchy. I talked to a teenage girl married off to a 70-year-old man who then suffered sustained beatings at the hands of the man's family. I also heard from a young widow who explained how she'd escaped her father-in-law who wanted to force her into marriage after her first husband had died.
There is nothing 'soft' about the UK's arts and creative industries, two of our biggest economic assets. Neither is there anything soft about our continuing work through the recent unrest in the Arab world and the British Council remaining on the ground during the last decade in Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan.