Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun (£) has some fresh Syria questions, just tweeted out by Tom Newton Dunn and reported on Sky News. The public remain overwhelmingly opposed to British troops being sent into Syria, but more importantly the poll also asked specifically about whether people would support a missile attack on Syria. 50% of people would oppose this course of action, 25% would support it. Even Tories are against missile strikes by 45-33% (Labour voters are against by 54% to 26%, Lib Dems by 47% to 27%)

UPDATE: Tabs are now on the YouGov website here. Regular voting tabs are here – today’s topline figures are CON 34%, LAB 39%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 12%.

684 Responses to “YouGov finds public 2 to 1 against missiles strikes on Syria”

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  1. The debate about whether to intervene in Syria is a bit redolent of the debates in the 1930s about how to deal with Hitler or whether to be strictly neutral over the Spanish Civil War. For those opposed to intervention, Syria seems to be a ‘far away place about which we know nothing’ and you could see Nigel Farage and John Redwood signing up quite happily to a policy of appeasement as their grandparents did. There must be plenty of governments looking on and thinking that ‘if Syria can get away with gassing their own people with no reaction, then there’s a lesson for us’. The point about missile strikes is not to change the course of events in Syria, but to demonstrate to the world that some actions (in a dirty world) will have consequences..

  2. @ Colin & Alec

    What would be achieved by launching a few cruise missles against targets in Syria ? How do we know whether Assad has control over all of his armed forces ?

    Not convinced that a small response to the use of CW’s without knowing for sure who used them, will make any difference. There was a map of where Syria might keep their CW’s in a newspaper the other day. These are the ones that are known about. If you start throwing cruise missles into a confused civil war situation, it might just make matters worse.

    If I were in Ed Milibands shoes, without having more information to make a decision, I think I would ask Labour MP’s to vote against any immediate action. If it were possible, I think Labour should put down an amendment, saying that the UK should put on hold any response to Syrias use of CW, until more information is known.

  3. I don’t know why everyone keeps referring to the Syrian conflict as a civil war, as soon as the funding that is being routed through the gulf states is removed and the British, American, French and Jordanian “advisers” are withdrawn the conflict is over. This pretence that we aren’t already up to our necks in this conflict, a conflict that we in fact created, is really bugging me

  4. @ Carey

    If you follow the argument that willing forces should intervene where required on a consistent basis, the US/UK did nothing about Russia in regard to Chechnya, where I think chemical weapons were used. Saddam used chemical weapons on several occasions without any immediate response.

    If people want to have a UN army who will intervene on a consistent basis backed by international law, then I am in favour of that. What I am against is an inconsistent approach, where willing countries get together to take action, without knowing all the facts, without being backed by law and without knowing the consequences.

  5. “@ richard in norway

    I don’t know why everyone keeps referring to the Syrian conflict as a civil war ”

    For the simple reason, of not having a more appropriate label to put on it. You can call it a ‘puppet war’ if you prefer because of the outside control being applied. Personally I am not sure how the conflict started in Syria. I thought it was as a result of a few instances of Syrian forces killing civilans in the form of brutal repression. Rebel forces were then formed with outside help and this is how we got to the current position.

  6. YouGov careful to use the term: “anti-Assad troops”.

    Troop even has some fairly positive connotations (“unit of at least five Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts under the guidance of an adult leader”), compared to the terms more commonly used to describe non-state actors in the Syrian conflict/insurgency/civil war.

  7. Everyone’s talking about Iraq of course, but a more recent and, at the moment, more relevant given what is being proposed, comparison is to Libya.

    YouGov asked some similar questions (f/w 13-14 Mar 11) just before the British-French military intervention (19 Mar):

    Again the most popular option was “Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya so the Libyan air force cannot attack rebels or civilians”. This had a massive 65% v 18% support in contrast to today’s 42% v 34% opposition. All other options were pretty unpopular.

    One other thing needs to be pointed out. It’s usually assumed that everyone will “rally round the troops” once action begins. This may be true in a ground war where British servicepeople are actually in danger, but it didn’t happen here.

    When the intervention actually started (nominally at least a no-fly zone), the first tracker poll shows 45% of the public saying it was “right”, a big drop from that 65%, and 36% said “wrong”. And that situation continued with usually only a few points lead for “right” at best for the rest of the campaign.

    Given the much lower initial support for intervention in Syria, you can see massive unpopularity for any action, particularly if there are civilian casualties – the very reason that is supposed to have triggered that action.

  8. RiN ” …funding”

    FT was reporting something like $3billion from Quatar, but that had been overtaken by funds from Saudi Arabia.

  9. And as part of the YouGov Archive to make me look foolish it turns out that they did do an AM poll (ie just the part of the sample they asked Tuesday morning):

    The main question is:

    Last week there were reports that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons against their opponents in a suburb of Damascus, the capital of Syria. Does this affect your view of whether Britain should take part in military action against the government of President Assad?

    Yes, I now support military action MORE than I did
    before 24%

    Yes, I now support military action LESS than I did
    before 5%

    No, I support military action just as much as I did 15%

    No, I oppose military action as much as I did 40%

    Don’t know 16%

    It’s actually a rather bad question for two reasons. Firstly a lot of those asked will already have known about the reports of the attacks, so that will already have been ‘priced in’ to the previous ratings and

    Secondly, as Anthony always warns us about ‘hypotheticals’, a lot of people will claim their mind has been/will be changed when they were thinking that way all along. In this case 24 + 15 = 39% supporting at least a bit versus 40 + 5 = 45% opposing looks not that different to the 34% v 42% that was the most popular option ‘before’ the extra information.

  10. Billy Bob

    I’m guessing that some of that funding is coming from non participating countries that have a clear interest, ie Germany

  11. BBC Website:

    “Meanwhile, the government is expected to publish the Commons motion for debate later, along with details of intelligence linking the Syrian government to the attack..

    The motion is expected to stress the need for “appropriate measures” in response to the use of chemical weapons by any country. ”

    Appropriate measures? Parliament has been recalled for ‘appropriate measures’? What are they? Flattening what is left of Damascus? Putting fingers in ears shouting “la la la I can’t hear you”?

  12. The west really has put themselves in something of a bind. They can do nothing and lose face internationally as their bluff is called, essentially giving Assad carte blanche. They can do something completely inneffective (lobbing a few missiles over) which will do little to change the course of the war. They can do something effective, which would mean a huge military operation against a well-armed country with a large portion of the population supportive of the president.

  13. This post is an attempt to link posts by @Carey and @R Huckle

    [I’ve got to say, while we are often veering well away from strictly polling matters, these are the days when I love this site.

    We have an issue of real significance – both in terms of global dynamics, but also of real people’s lives – where the options and outcomes are uncertain. I can’t bring myself to a clear decision, like most posters I think. Many posters have written some very thought provoking and challenging posts. Like our politicians, we’re really struggling with this one, and the tone and quality of the thread reflects this. Back to the point……]

    @carey asks what happens on a wider scale if we don’t react to the use of CW, while @RHuckle asks what is the point of a few cruise missiles in such circumstances.

    This reminds me of a long conversation I had once with an Iranian expat I knew, about the relative merits of British and Iranian justice systems. He was bemused about our insistence on punishing the right individuals, and the campaigns and fuss made when unsafe convictions are made.

    His view (and this is only one Iranians anecdotal view, not backed up with any detailed evidence, so apologies to any Iranians reading who think this is incorrect) was that Iranian justice seeks a swift resolution, where punishment is seen to be meted out in a timely manner, but where the population accepts a degree of inaccurate convictions.

    The point, he felt, was that the more important element of justice was not to ensure the right person received the punishment, but to ensure that society at large received a clear message that the crime was wrong. A false conviction, while undesirable, still served the greater purpose of deterring wrong doing, and in doing so added to the greater good, with the greater possibility of convicting an innocent a price worth paying.

    I fundamentally agree with @Carey – if someone (anyone) gets away with gassing hundreds of people, what happens next, and what are the global implications? But I also fundamentally agree with @RHuckle – what is the direct benefit from some missile strikes.

    Perhaps we are back to the ‘something must be done’, and if my Iranian friend is correct, doing anything could be one answer.

  14. How good it is to see that YouGov did (partly) poll over the BH. I never subscribed to the idea that the BH had any polling significance.

  15. Alec,

    My physics teacher was Iranian and weirdly we had the same conversation. He’s a magistrate, and he would disagree with almost everything your friend said. He told me that what he liked about the British justice system was that we worked so hard to make sure the people we punished were definitely the culprits. Otherwise, he said, we may as well punish crimes by plucking people off the street at random and imprisoning them every time a crime is committed.

    Again, just anecdotal evidence, but it’s interesting to hear different points of view. I think it’s a measure of the collectivist vs. individualist differences between Iranian and British society.

  16. Alec what is the purpose of putting @ before the pseudonym when referring to it?

  17. COLIN
    “The Times quotes “Whitehall & European sources” saying Bashar’s brother Maher , head of the Republican Guard, launched the rocket attack by the 4th Armoured Division, which he commands.
    It is said to have been a revenge attack for a rebel assault on a Presidential convoy in central Damascus at Eid.”
    This or some similar unsanctioned action by a military participant with a finger on the trigger has the ring of likelihood, and confirms the probability which I posed early in the previous post that this would be shown to be an operational decision, deniable by Government or any supreme command, as was water-boarding and other torture by the US military in Iraq. Please note that I am not intending to be contentious in making this parallel: the similaries of structural responsibility in a context of poorly controlled military force and poor information are striking.
    It is not IMV correct in Colin’s argument or yours to assume that a failure to act on a UN resolution, or call for one, dents the standing of the UN of of the system of international response to what is an international war crime, and a call to the Russians and Chinese does not require that they support such a call or any mustering of international action against the Syrian Assad regime, still less that this should involved international agreement on any military action. The condemnation of the international community is the response that has been required and has been made. It should not be diluted by poorly justified military or other sanction.
    Russia’s (and China’s) role has to be, for political reasons which should be obvious, a follow-up to the international condemnation, but mainly, as they themselves have said, to the production of evidence on what actually happened and on who has been responsible. Their response has to be separate from the western powers’ response, and both diplomatic and in terms of their alliance with the Assad regime. And it has to offer an exit strategy for Assad to the present impasse over the use of chemical weapon, regardless of any eventual outcome of the conflict.

  18. @Mrnameless – that is indeed weird. It goes to show that, as ever, every nation has a range of opinions, and shows the dangers of assuming ‘they’ always think in monolithic blocks.

    After I posted, I recalled another conversation years ago with a family friend who was a London copper in the 1960s and 70s. He came out with the classic line ‘we only fit up the scroats’.

  19. To use this argument, we must remain even handed, so if there is any future case of rebel forces using CW, we must deal with them in the same manner. Or accept the Russians doing this on our behalf.
    There was already evidence that the rebel forces used chemical weapons; also that they were bringing them into Syria.

    The way ‘we’ showed that ‘we’ were displeased was that ‘we’ declined to send them any weapons; this was when new information was needed to counter the reality of what had happened (i.e. people ‘we’ were supporting had used or negligently set off chemical weapons in civilian areas).

    The media began to report that there was no ‘official’ rebel force, rather there are different groups of rebels. Therefore, we had ‘bad’ rebels who would procure & use chemical weapons & ‘good’ rebels who hadn’t.

    But, to return to even-handedness, ‘we’ are already refusing to provide the official Syrian government with weapons or any other support so ‘we’ are already being even-handed. Bombing Syria would be an unwarranted escalation; i.e. it would be an act of war.

  20. @Howard – “Alec what is the purpose of putting @ before the pseudonym when referring to it?”

    To be honest, I don’t know. I starting doing this when I first came on here some years ago now, because that is what some other posters did.

    I don’t know it’s actual meaning (if it has one) but I find it very useful to identify an answer to an individual, as it helps a name stand out. Others, like JOHN PILGRIM, do this via capitals, but I prefer the @ symbol, as I have that old fashioned internet sense that capitals make it look like you are SHOUTING.

  21. Goodness, Alec, that’s scapegoat thinking (burning witches, sacrificing babies to Moloch etc.) It’s not even effective. The perpetrator soon realises that someone else pays the price of his/her crimes, so goes merrily on his/her way. Desperate stuff.

    Everyone, every state too, is responsible for their own actions. You can’t excuse yourself by saying we’re doing wrong because someone else did wrong first, or you drive your moral ‘bus’ into a ‘roadblock’ of self-contradiction. So the only justification for acting in a way which is likely to harm others – let alone innocent others – is that it is the ONLY way to prevent even greater harm coming to them or others.

    We’ve got this problem because we haven’t really spent any time or trouble at all concerning ourselves with Syria until last week. That would have cost us money, say I, cynically. Now we feel, ”Oh dear, a great crime has been done,” which indeed it has. So we find ourselves in the position of having no immediate or effective options for stopping Assad other than ones likely to cause as much suffering as he himself has caused, or more. It’s a classic dilemma facing those who have looked the other way when there were things they could do, and now have only the option of doing unacceptable things.

    If we are to remain decent now, we can only accept the consequences of our previous moral casualness and work quietly behind the scenes to prevent further wrongdoing. But of course that means losing face, which we richly deserve to have to do, and our PM is unlikely to want that.

    I fear the worst.

    p.s Posting for the thrid time because it keeps going to moderation – seemingly just because my name is attached to it.

  22. I, probably wrongly, use @ instead of a greeting. Were I writing a letter, I would start Dear Colin, or Good morning, Colin or similar. So I use it as a short-hand way to be polite.

  23. @Alec.

    I can confirm that is a sentence you might well have heard in the Met in years past. Perhaps less so these days. Although the officer might not have meant the same thing by “fit up” as you think.

    As for Syria, I have to admit that like you I am slightly at a loss as to what to think. I shrink from the idea that some people are propagating that this is some sort of “artificial” war created and sustained only by outside interference. Has everyone forgotten the (literally) years of demonstrations and protests against the regime that preceded the conflict? The reason we have a war is because the government responded to demonstrations with military violence. That provoked large numbers of soldiers to defect and foster a rebellion. At that point (when the West probably should have thrown our weight behind them) they were pretty much left to their own devices, and a cycle of grinding, brutal actions took hold. Over time it emerged that the only “rebels” with decent funding, equipment and training were jihadists (perhaps if there had been properly constituted, Western supported formations of FSA troops in play this wouldn’t have been the case). The jihadists made massive inroads into government held territory, but the extremity of their views meant that many Syrians (including almost anyone who wasn’t a Sunni muslim) who had previously supported the rebels decided they preferred the devil they knew.

    Ultimately the combination of Russian military support and the very experienced fighters sent from Lebanon by Iran became more than a match for the rebels and they started to lose. By that point, I think there was no real point to the rebellion any more. Everyone knows that even if the rebels could win, they would immediately descend into a second bout of fighting between extremists and moderates, and unless the West was prepared to police it the extremists would probably prevail.

    We in the West are very good at bold statements about what should and should not be allowed – from election fraud to the persecution of minorities, from rape to the use of WMD, we stride around saying that it “must not be allowed”. Sadly when it comes down to it we don’t really have the levers to pull to ensure that it doesn’t.

    I still stick to my view however, that if the US can identify a commander, or a unit, or a base that was involved in shelling rebel areas with chemical weapons, then I wouldn’t criticise the allies for dropping a few tomahawks in the appropriate spot. Whether they can actually so identify a target is another matter (although I am sure they will claim they can).

  24. @ is an internet term for “at”.

    Putting @ before someone’s name is simply a way of saying that your comment is aimed at, or in answer to them.



    When you respond to this you should begin with @Neil A, but there is no need to put @ in front of my name anywhere else in your comment.

  25. @ Alec

    What happens if a few missile strikes leads to a bigger split within the Syrian millitary ? I think some of the millitary have already separated from the Assad regime and some are with the rebel forces. The problem is that the rebel forces are not one united group, who will form a government once Assad is toppled. I don’t think they have a leader in waiting, who is capable of uniting all the different factions.

    Surely what is needed now are measures that provide for more security/containment within Syria. They need to stop more military equipment/fighters being imported into Syria. There needs to be more involvement of the Arab League and the UN in trying to gain a ceasefire, so that talks can take place and humanitarian aid can be provided.

  26. NEIL A
    “Whether they can actually so identify a target is another matter (although I am sure they will claim they can).”

    What is it, I wonder, about the present phase of international conflict and conflict resolution that permits this particular drawing on the writings of Lewis Carroll: Anything I say three times is true?

  27. Another poll showing the Labour percentage in the bracket. This time at the top end of the bracket. As usual the other percentages fluctuate about a bit. Now it it is nearly 96% of opinion polls, from all organisations, showing Labour in the bracket since August 2010.

    I assume Labour must be hoping the other parties will stick to their current themes as it is not effecting the Labour percentage.

  28. @John P,

    Hehe I think Alistair Campbell started it….

  29. Someone is actively moderating my posts by removing them. I am quite sure my contributions to this site this morning won’t be missed unduly, but I do know they didn’t contain bad language, talked only of moral choices and were non-partisan.

    Obviously don’t want to spoil anyone’s party, so I’ll head for the door.

  30. Amber

    I didn’t mean the beginning of the posting but during it when referring to what an OP posted (see more jargon) but I think that is clear now from Alec’s reply or as Alec would put it @Alec’s reply. Thanks to you both.

    I opined earlier that the burden of guilt issue was a mirror of the Iraq situation but it isn’t, in this way: if WMD had been discovered in Iraq, we would not have reasonably supposed they belonged to Kurd or Shiite rebels but in the Syrian case, we don’t know at present and Assad can always claim regime ignorance, as John Pilgrim suggested they might.

    The result is that I believe voters will remain opposed until they get the facts they feel they can trust.

  31. NEIL A
    Not sure. I think it goes back further and has deep resonances in “Strategic Studies” as against “Peace Studies”, and the vast military-defense-political establishments inherited from the Cold War, peopled by men whose lives and personalities have long since been inhabited by the grey shadows of their own propaganda.

  32. @RED RAG – it surely depends what you term as your ‘bracket’ – have you devised the ‘bracket’ yourself or is it a semi official ‘bracket’?

    35-39% or 36-40% or 37-41% or 38-42%

    So, whichever bracket you want to invent Labour are slowly (very slowly) dropping out of their complacent comfort zone!

  33. Neil A gave a very accurate potted history, which scotched the ‘outside islamist influence’ position, which I noticed others have taken. How short some memories are.

    I recall that 80% of occupying USA troops in Iraq thought they had invaded it to defeat Al Qaeda.

  34. @Neil A

    I largely agree with your summary, which only goes to emphasise how disastrous it was for the UN to have been gravely undermined by the actions in Libya, so that international agreement on Syria was impossible.

  35. @ Colin

    If there is no response –

    The UN Security Council & the whole panoply of CW Treaty intent are rendered a sham.
    As signing the treaty is optional & nothing is done until somebody ‘we’ dislike can be accused of having/ using them, it could be argued that it is already a ‘sham’.
    Nevertheless, we should try much harder to prevent proliferation. Economic sanctions (zero aid, zero trade) would be a good way to make an early intervention against nations who are known to have such weapons. Some might say: But they will simply trade with Russia, China etc. & we will miss opportunities. Gosh, we will lose opportunities to make money; we may even suffer some economic hardship to ‘send a message’. I wonder, would the UK, US & French public be willing to make the sacrifice?
    The victims & their relatives will never ever believe in international justice again-indeed international justice will look a sad empty concept.
    One answer is to strengthen international courts. This flies in the face of the on-going campaign to weaken international courts & return ‘sovereignty’ to national courts.

    The other answer is, sadly, that there is never any justice for the ‘collateral damage’ (aka dead civilians of any age or gender) which happens during wars – so ‘they’ will simply have to accept that international law is not intended to provide retribution/ selective justice for a chosen few.
    Assad might use CW again as a result of his impunity this time.
    Assuming Assad’s forces used CW, I don’t believe we can say he has done so with impunity. It has put Russia & China under considerable pressure. Anything which weakens the resolve of Syria’s few allies could be catastrophic, so CW have not been used with ‘impunity’.
    Iran & N. Korea will make a large diary note that Obama is all talk , & global security is reduced.
    Global security is reduced by selectively inciting & supporting rebellions for our own political & economic benefit. Iran & N. Korea have already made a note that countries which have nuclear – or other MAD – weapons don’t get the same ‘treatment’ as Iraq/ Libya etc. This is one of my main objections to selective military interference, it may well lead to proliferation of MAD weapons.

  36. @ Colin

    This may be of interest to you, regarding international law & selective, unsanctioned interference.

  37. The problem for western leaders is the media; since there has been a hint of repercussions to Syria there has been media frenzy, a new expert every couple of hours to give us a view.

    I suppose if we go back and look it will be the media asking questions of those said leaders which then puts pressure on to do something… anything to be seen to be doing something.

    We cannot supposedly finance the care for our elderly, sick and disabled yet we can find finances to go to war… I am very concerned that our leaders are stepping into quicksand, attacking Syria is not going to be like attacking Libya or Iraq, a UK base within striking distance of Syria, who would be quite justified to retaliate against outside aggression, do we actually know what capabilities Syria has or are we guessing.

    If when missiles are fired at Syria they are knocked out of the skies, by Russian anti missile systems, which if our military leaders are not expecting they are incompetent.

    Then what?
    What if Syria then decides to go to war, after clearing out the rebels with a more powerful CW, so they can concentrate on war?
    Will they have anything to lose?
    When you put a tiger into a paper cage do you really expect it to hold?

    I think our leader is taking a very, very big risk.

  38. @howard

    Lessons can be learned about how the conflict has spiralled out of control, but it’s also worth taking into account how things have developed up to the present moment.

    Generally the opinions of only one side have been reported in our media, but we don’t have any real evidence that rebel forces, in their present form, are supported by more than a minority of Syrians.

  39. There’s a scenario that doesn’t seem to have been considered yet – that there was a store of CW in rebel hands, that was hit during a government attack, causing Sarin to vent into the atmosphere, possibly in a confimed space. In which case I would presume that the rebels would have cleared all the evidence of such CW storage.

    Is there evidence in the public domain which would support/contradict this?

  40. Germany is on board, will participate in strikes!! And I thought their contribution would be limited to under the table money because of their history

  41. Douglas Alexander confirmed on TV that UN INspectors will not be allocating responsibility for the 21 August attack-it is not in their brief.

    The Inspectors will say if people were exposed to neuro toxins on that day in that place & if so-what it was. This will address Russia’s claim that the footage was play acting & set up.

    DA said it is for US/UK/France etc to produce the intelligence on which they rely , that the regime was responsible.


    @”This or some similar unsanctioned action by a military participant with a finger on the trigger has the ring of likelihood, and confirms the probability which I posed early in the previous post that this would be shown to be an operational decision, deniable by Government or any supreme command,”

    Maher al-Assad IS a member of the regime-he runs the military.
    Nothing he does is “un-sanctioned”.

    By all accounts he is not a pleasant character.

    When I read this accusation, I immediately thought of Gaddafi’s sons.

  43. AMBER

    @”so CW have not been used with ‘impunity’.”

    I disagree-thus far it has.

    We shall see whether Russia is persuaded by the evidence presented to it bu UK/USA with today’s SC Resolution.

    I think both you & I can guess the outcome.

  44. “@ richard in norway

    Germany is on board, will participate in strikes!! And I thought their contribution would be limited to under the table money because of their history ”

    From memory, I think the German parliament passed legislation in the last year or so, about how their armed forces could be used for intervention purposes. There was previously a law which restricted what their armed forces could do and limited their role in Afghanistan for example.


  45. Even if a video emerged of Bashar al-Assad personally boiling 1,000 babies alive in battery acid, I don’t suppose it would change the Russian position.

    They don’t want to lose a client state and a naval base. End of.

  46. NEILA

    @” I shrink from the idea that some people are propagating that this is some sort of “artificial” war created and sustained only by outside interference. Has everyone forgotten the (literally) years of demonstrations and protests against the regime that preceded the conflict? ”

    Me too Neil.

    The “propagator” in question has no interest in the facts you refer to-for reasons which are manifest in his contributions.

  47. NEILA

    @”They don’t want to lose a client state and a naval base. End of.”

    Yep-but they sit on the UN SC.

  48. More reason as to why the permanent membership system should be abolished. It’s just that abolishing it would require the votes of the permanent members, which will never be obtained. Tricky, isn’t it?

  49. For those interested in a basic timeline on Syria, here is a link

  50. Any removal of the permanent member system would, in my view, have to be accompanied by some sort of entry qualifications for member states of the UN.

    The idea that the security of the planet could be in the hands of a ragtag gang of leaders many of them in power by violent or dubious means, is even worse than having a body made powerless by superpower rivalry.

    Essentially the UN is worthless (the assembly and SC I mean – some of its organisations have great value).

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