John McDonnell and Hilary Benn together at an event supporting the remain campaign in June [Image: Dylan Martinez/Reuters].
It’s bizarre to have to point this out – especially in response to reports by newspaper journalists who should know this – but John McDonnell has NOT refused to intervene over Hilary Benn’s future as a Labour MP.
The Shadow Chancellor simply has no power to do so. As he made perfectly clear in his Radio 5 Live interview, Parliamentary candidates are chosen by Constituency Labour Parties.
So Rajeev Syal’s article in The Grauniad, for example, is misleading. I’d like to say I hope this is not deliberate, but it still reflects on the professionalism of the author.
It doesn’t matter whether close allies of Jeremy Corbyn remain angry with Mr Benn after he sided with the Conservative Government over air strikes and Syria, or any involvement of his in the attempted ‘Chicken Coup’ over the summer.
If it is true that supporters of Mr Corbyn have been elected as officers in Mr Benn’s constituency party, Leeds Central, then they can propose any action they see fit – within party rules.
That includes deselection of the incumbent MP, so he may not stand as a candidate in a future election (it would not affect his position as an MP in the current Parliament).
And it is important to clarify that, if anyone has “taken over” positions in Leeds Central CLP, they would have done so by democratic means.
I question why Rajeev Syal mentions that Patrick Hall, a vice-chair of Leeds Central CLP who has spoken against Mr Benn, is a national executive member of the Labour Representation Committee, described as “a radical grouping” chaired by McDonnell.
What’s the implication?
Mr McDonnell will not influence any decision on Mr Benn’s future in any way. If Leeds Central CLP deselects Mr Benn, it will be because Leeds Central Labour members wish it.
Few civilians took up the offer to leave rebel-held Aleppo during the pause in air strikes [Image: Reuters].
It’s interesting to note how subdued the BBC’s coverage of this new assault on Aleppo has become.
One supposes it must be quite hard to paint the Russians as architects of atrocity when they’ve just given non-combatants three weeks to get out of the firing line.
Apparently very few civilians took up the offer. One wonders whether this is because they were prevented from doing so, by the rebel forces/terrorists/whatever-you-want-to-call-them remaining in the city.
If so, you can draw your own conclusions about them.
And, of course, the United States have a new President-elect who has adopted a much more conciliatory tone towards Russia and its joint military operations with the Syrian government.
Suddenly those who were agitating for conflict are on the wrong side of the argument.
Interesting, isn’t it, how media attitudes change according to who has the power?
Warplanes have bombed besieged rebel-held eastern districts of the Syrian city of Aleppo for the first time in three weeks, a monitoring group says.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Haidariya, Masakin Hanano and Sheikh Faris areas were hit.
The Syrian government’s ally, Russia, halted air strikes in mid-October to allow civilians and rebels to leave.
Activists fear the resumption signals that the government’s assault on the east will now be stepped up.
Earlier, a hospital in a rebel-held village west of Aleppo was reportedly bombed, the third medical facility to have been hit in the past 24 hours.
The Syrian Observatory said at least one person was killed in Awaijel.
The latest test of public opinion has shown a majority against bombing Syria – again.
Perhaps Michael Fallon is not a Guardian reader, but that hardly seems a useful position from which to justify his claim to RAF personnel that they have the “backing” of “the people of Britain”.
This Writer awaits the usual chorus of claims that the Guardian article isn’t a proper survey because it isn’t balanced and weighted in the same way as polls conducted by the professional survey companies.
But then, don’t those ‘professional’ surveys always reflect the opinions of their funders? And don’t those who disagree with this claim always agree with what such surveys are saying?
RAF warplanes have carried out their second raid on a Daesh/IS target in Syria – the same oilfield that was said to have been destroyed on October 23, using Paveway bombs rather than the Brimstone missiles David Cameron said would be employed.
These are important distinctions. Firstly, if the RAF is hitting a target that was already destroyed just over a month ago, then the best that can be said about it is it is likely to be under reconstruction, involving civilian workers. David Cameron promised us blind that the UK would not attack civilians.
Claims that the attack was successful are less impressive when you know where and what the target was.
Secondly, the Paveway bombs are not as precise as Brimstone guided missiles. They come with selective fuse options to adjust blast radius and shrapnel, in order to cause minimal collateral damage, but we have no evidence that any such adjustments have been made in the two operations carried out so far.
The fact that the RAF has attacked a civilian target, rather than any terrorist military base, is also significant. David Cameron has, so far, avoided engagement with the people who are actually causing harm. He wants his war to last a long time.
And Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visited military personnel at RAF Akrotiri to feed them a lot of nonsense about support for their operations among the UK public. Considering the huge amount of protest against air strikes, he was wrong to say that they had the backing of “the people of Britain”. They don’t.
All in all, David Cameron’s war is turning into a dud.
RAF jets have carried out their second set of air strikes in Syria since MPs backed military action against so-called Islamic State in the country.
The Omar oil fields were targeted for the second time, using two Tornados and, for the first time, two Typhoons.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who is visiting the British base for the Syria mission in Cyprus, said: “Last night saw the full force of the RAF.”
During his visit to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, Mr Fallon thanked military personnel.
He made no assurances about the length of the campaign, telling them only it was “not going to be short or simple”.
“You go now into this full-bodied mission with your orders and with your training. But I want you to know also you go with the backing of the government and the people of Britain.”
The Ministry of Defence said the Tornados and Typhoons used Paveway IV guided bombs to hit wellheads in the oil field on Friday night, “thus cutting off the terrorists’ oil revenue at the very source”.
Eight attacks were carried out, and early reports suggest that they were successful, an MoD statement added.
Here at Vox Political, we love a politician with principles.
What a shame Hilary Benn doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Only a couple of weeks ago, he was arguing that, after the Paris attacks, the UK should concentrate on peace talks and helping refugees.
One is led to consider whether those who applauded his speech in support of air strikes were really supporting his ‘principled’ view – or whether they were simply happy to see him abandoning whatever principles he had.
An interview published on 15 November in which Hilary Benn said he did not advocate bombing Isis in Syria has been shared widely on social media in the aftermath yesterday’s Syria debate in Parliament.
The interview saw renewed interest after the shadow foreign secretary … advocated the bombing of Syria.
In the previous interview, given to the Independent on Sunday… Mr Benn was asked whether the Government should bring forward a vote on bombing Isis in Syria, which was at that time not planned. He replied:
“No. They have to come up with an overall plan, which they have not done. I think the focus for now is finding a peaceful solution to the civil war.
The comments contrast with the view stated by Mr Benn in his speech two weeks later. In that speech he urged Labour MPs to vote for bombing.
The OTHER big issue at the ‘air strikes’ debate: David Cameron refused to apologise for insulting everybody who disagreed with his cockeyed scheme. Here’s Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell on the subject.
So British warplanes are on their way to Syria – by the time you read this, they may even have completed their first raid, which means that about half a million pounds of our money wasted already.
David Cameron will get his war, after MPs voted in favour of air strikes against Daesh (IS if you like) in Syria by a majority of 174. This means the votes of the 67 or 68 (at the time of writing the total isn’t certain) Labour MPs who sided with the Conservatives were totally irrelevant.
Some Twits are already suggesting the result could trigger the ejection of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, putting forward the pro-air strikes speech by Hilary Benn as possibly the start of a leadership campaign. This is silly.
First, Corbyn is in no danger as a result of this vote. The number of rebellions has already been compared (favourably) with the number suffered by former Labour prime minister Tony Blair when he called for war against Iraq, and he went on to win another general election afterwards. Labour MPs enjoyed a free vote, meaning they were not whipped to support a line held by the leadership, so nobody rebelled against Mr Corbyn. And, as already mentioned, the low number of Labour MPs siding with the government means their choice did not make a scrap of difference.
Mr Benn’s speech was widely praised, but a pro-war speech from the son of Tony Benn is not cause for celebration. As Rhiannon Valentine tweeted, “Hilary Benn was not applauded because his speech was historic, he was applauded because he is supporting the Tory Government.” His illustrious father, whose pro-peace speech of 23 years ago has been widely publicised in the run-up to the ‘air strikes’ debate, was no doubt spinning so fast in his grave he may have drilled his way to Syria himself. There has been widespread disgust at Mr Benn’s rhetoric. In that context, it seems unlikely that the Labour Party at large will support any attempt by him to usurp the leadership.
I’m not going to rehash the arguments against air strikes that we have all heard too many times already. It seems to me, though, that the best thing Jeremy Corbyn can do now is carry on exactly as he is, and wait for Cameron’s strategy to fall apart.
Will Cameron avoid killing civilians? No. While some have used Iraq as an example of airborne warfare that has not cost civilian lives, the actual number of deaths is 369 (at the time of writing), I’m reliably informed.
Will Cameron reduce the chances of terrorist strikes in the UK? No. The terrorist attacks in France on Friday 13 November were hatched by European citizens and it is likely that any attacks here will be home-grown. The vote for air strikes makes you less safe, because people will believe it is actually doing some good.
Will Cameron end the threat of Daesh? No. But having planes over Syria alongside many other countries means someone else might strike a decisive blow – for which he would then take the credit.
It is Corbyn’s place to ensure the public is fully informed of the collateral damage caused by Cameron’s campaign. He should also keep a watchful eye on those of his own MPs who voted with the Conservatives, in order to make sure they understand what they have supported.
Those MPs are:
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East),
Ian Austin (Dudley North),
Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West),
Kevin Barron (Rother Valley),
Margaret Beckett (Derby South),
Hilary Benn (Leeds Central),
Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree),
Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East),
Ben Bradshaw (Exeter),
Chris Bryant (Rhondda),
Alan Campbell (Tynemouth),
Jenny Chapman (Darlington),
Vernon Coaker (Gedling),
Ann Coffey (Stockport),
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford),
Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark),
Mary Creagh (Wakefield),
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow),
Simon Danczuk (Rochdale),
Wayne David (Caerphilly),
Gloria De Piero (Ashfield),
Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth),
Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge),
Michael Dugher (Barnsley East),
Angela Eagle (Wallasey),
Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood),
Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside),
Frank Field (Birkenhead),
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse),
Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East),
Caroline Flint (Don Valley),
Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham),
Margaret Hodge (Barking),
George Howarth (Knowsley),
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central),
Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central),
Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle),
Graham Jones (Hyndburn),
Helen Jones (Warrington North),
Kevan Jones (Durham North),
Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South),
Liz Kendall (Leicester West),
Dr Peter Kyle (Hove),
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East),
Holly Lynch (Halifax),
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden),
Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East),
Conor McGinn (St Helens North),
Alison McGovern (Wirral South),
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South),
Jamie Reed (Copeland),
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East),
Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West),
Joan Ryan (Enfield North),
Lucy Powell (Manchester Central),
Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North),
Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge),
John Spellar (Warley),
Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston),
Gareth Thomas (Harrow West),
Anna Turley (Redcar),
Chuka Umunna (Streatham),
Keith Vaz (Leicester East),
Tom Watson (West Bromwich East),
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) and
John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).
My final thought is that this vote – and many of the speeches during the debate – shows that the quality of our democratic representatives has fallen to a depressing depth.
The electorate really needs to raise its standards in choosing, not only MPs, but candidates to be MPs.
Some of you may have noticed that yesterday (Tuesday) was December 1, the first day of Advent and therefore the start of the Season of Goodwill, here in the UK.
It has been marked by a series of increasingly bitter exchanges between those of us who are pro- or anti- the plan to launch air strikes to bomb people in Syria, and topped off by a staggeringly offensive comment by the UK’s own prime minister.
So it’s all going swimmingly. Joy to the World, eh?
Cameron’s foot-in-mouth moment was made in an attempt to persuade fellow Conservative MPs to vote for his war in Syria. The BBC‘s version of the story states:
David Cameron has urged Tory MPs to take a stand on fighting terror on the eve of a vote in Parliament on authorising UK airstrikes in Syria.
The prime minister called on them not to “sit on their hands” and side with Jeremy Corbyn and others he labelled “a bunch of terrorist sympathisers”.
This is, of course, an act of defamation.
Claiming that his political opponents, including not only Jeremy Corbyn (who is named) but also any other MPs who agree with the Labour leader, agree with the unlawful use or threat of violence to intimidate or coerce, usually for political or ideological reasons, certainly seems to be defamation as This Writer learned it!
Does the comment seem intended to expose Mr Corbyn and the others to hatred, ridicule or contempt? Yes.
May it cause them to be shunned and avoided? Yes.
Does it seem intended to lower them in the estimation of right-thinking people generally? Yes.
And does it disparage him in his office, trade, calling or profession? Certainly.
(Note that This Blog’s reporting of it is not an act of defamation as it expressly states that there is no reason to believe Mr Corbyn and the others who have been tarnished by Cameron’s words should be described in that manner.)
Anybody who opposes Cameron’s will at the vote – and it seems likely that many more will do so than had intended it, prior to his outburst – will be able to sue him for trying to bring them into disrepute. Some may consider it reason enough to vote ‘No’.
Needless to say, the social media has been having huge sport with this.
For example, Jill Segger tweeted: “Are British Quakers “terrorist sympathisers”, David Cameron? If not, why are MPs with a conscientious objection to airstrikes so called?”
Nick Pettigrew added: “‘Terrorist sympathisers’. Ballsy talk from a bloke recently seen bowing to the Saudi royal family.”
Several people have contacted the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, demanding that Cameron be made to retract his comment and apologise.
Why did Cameron do it?
Long-term readers will be aware that This Blog often compares the behaviour of the current Conservative Party with that of the Nazis who governed Germany between 1933 and 1945. With that in mind, take a look at this:
Does that clarify matters?
He’s on a hiding to nothing though – according to a new poll he has just insulted more than half the population of the UK:
In related news, the Commons Foreign Affairs select committee has decided that Cameron has failed to address its concerns over air strikes. Those who voted for the motion include Tory John Baron, who intends to vote against air strikes, and his colleague Andrew Rosindell – also a Conservative.
Mr Baron has tabled a cross-party amendment to the motion ratifying air-strikes, with co-signatories including the SNP’s Angus Robertson, Labour’s Graham Allen, Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams, the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell, Green MP Caroline Lucas – and 104 others, according to Labour MP John Mann.
The wording states that the House of Commons, “while welcoming the renewed impetus towards peace and reconstruction in Syria, and the government’s recognition that a comprehensive strategy against Daesh is required, does not believe that the case for the UK’s participation in the ongoing air campaign in Syria by 10 countries has been established under current circumstances, and consequently declines to authorise military action in Syria”.
Eoin Clarke tweeted: “Since we started bombing ISIS 481 days ago, recruitment to ISIS’s terrorist army has grown by 1400%. I [am] less than convinced bombing’s working.”
Dr Clarke also tweeted an image showing 10 reasons he believes bombing is not reasonable:
MPs will debate Cameron’s plan – to bomb Syria – for 10 and a half hours, starting at 11.30am today (Wednesday, December 2), with a vote immediately afterwards.
That’s right: Jeremy Corbyn is keen to fight IS – but he wants to do it in a way that actually has an effect.
Confused? You should be.
After Jeremy Corbyn allowed Labour MPs a free vote on whether to support David Cameron’s call for the UK to take part in air strikes on Syria, the lickspittles in the Tory-supporting news media got busy pretending that if the vote goes Cameron’s way, it will be all Corbyn’s fault.
But wait – Corbyn is against air strikes, isn’t he?
That’s right. But the media want you to think that, by allowing a free vote, he’s giving his MPs free rein to support the Conservatives. In fact, he has put all the responsibility onto them. If they support air strikes, the blood will be on their hands, not his. And their constituents – who are overwhelmingly opposed to another Middle East adventure (as these episodes are euphemistically dubbed) – will not forget.
The case in favour of warfare, as put forward by Cameron last week, is ludicrous – and has become fertile ground for satirists. Here’s an example:
Let’s break it down: The infographic is pointing out that previous interventions in Iraq and Libya have destabilised those nations, making them a home to terrorists – exactly the opposite of what we were told would happen. Innocents will be killed in huge numbers – even if we knew where the terrorists were hiding, it would probably be behind children or the sick, in schools or hospitals (as we have previously experienced). Dropping bombs on Syria will increase the outflow of refugees. Our bombing will have as little effect as that of the other countries. When bombing Syria was last debated in Parliament, it was against President Assad, and therefore on the same side as the terrorists, and if we had gone through with it, Daesh/IS would now control most of Syria; how can anyone possibly argue that the current plan would have a better result? The last is self-explanatory: Any dire consequences will go to another interminable inquiry, in the hope that people will forget about it (fat chance).
These are only some of the reasons Jeremy Corbyn opposes Cameron’s air strikes plan. Here’s how the UK news media have explained it:
Rick Burin posted this on Twitter and commented: Cameron wants us to go to war. Corbyn is voting against. And THIS is your headline? David Schneider, posted the same image with a more satirical message: “Cameron chains himself to Downing Street railings to try to stop war but bloodthirsty Corbyn won’t be stopped!”
Emily Maitlis, tweeting ahead of last night’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight, gave us: “Tonight: Have splits in the Labour Party just made air strikes on Syria a whole lot more likely?”
The Newsnight report prompted at least one complaint of serious bias in its reporting.
Conor Pope, writing in the curiously anti-Corbyn LabourList, told us: “Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn stood to address Labour MPs and peers about the outcome.
“It was, apparently, a bizarre scene. The two appeared to contradict each other on almost every point. While the whole Shadow Cabinet was in agreement about how the four tests set out in the Syria motion at Labour conference needed to be met, Corbyn and Benn are at odds about whether they have.
“The meeting lasted an hour and forty minutes, with lots of backbenchers wanting to have their say, and Corbyn delivering lengthy answers to every inquiry. But angsty MPs were increasingly irritated at Corbyn’s perceived reticence to answer questions directly.”
Here’s Eoin Clarke on Twitter: “A momentous day for Labour. MP after MP lined up to articulate why they would be opposing Cameron’s vote to bomb Syria. The Tide is turning.”
Who do you believe?
Jeremy Corbyn himself told Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 that only a small number of diehard Labour MPs would be supporting air strikes: “There will be a large majority of Labour MPs voting against the war. There are a small number who are very diehard in supporting the war.”
He said imposing a whip would have been pointless: “They would probably have supported the war whether there was a whip or not.”
(The whipping question prompted a very pertinent comment from David White on Twitter: “The same people criticising Corbyn for allowing a free vote are the ones who’d have criticised him if he’d imposed a whip.”)
And Mr Corbyn repeatedly appealed to any remaining Labour MPs who were still considering voting with the Tories to think again: “Think of the complications and the implications of what we’re doing and please cast your vote against supporting this government’s military endeavours in Syria.”
There are many who agree with him, like Charlotte L Riley, who tweeted: “I am confused as to why Corbyn is getting the blame here rather than, say, Cameron, who actually supports bombing.”
Ian Jones asked: “We need a debate so we can ask Cameron if he’s going for the set – human rights abuses & war crimes.”
And Eoin Clarke (again) added: “Fully understandable that David Cameron has refused the request for a two-day debate on Syria. He knows his argument for war is very weak.”
But all of these sensible comments are being drowned out by a mass media that is determined to have a Tory war and blame it on the Labour leader.
Cat Smith has written a Facebook post explaining why she has joined the growing numbers of Labour MPs who are declaring their intention to vote against air strikes on Syria.
I want to see a world free of the barbarity of ISIS / Daesh – cruelty which has overwhelmingly been targeted at Syrian and Iraqi civilians, but has now also directed impacted or inspired outrages against innocent people spanning from West Africa to Europe. Their perversion of the Islamic faith is vehemently rejected by Muslims the world over but must be tackled as a battle of ideas as well as through depleting its ability to control land, resources and arms.
The core of the choice before MPs this week must be ‘will our actions improve the situation or worsen it?’ Sadly, this question seems to have been avoided or incorrectly answered several times in recent history. Stating merely that ‘something must be done’ has led us to overthrow governments in Iraq and Libya with little thought to the consequences. The subsequent years of chaos created the conditions where violent jihadi groups, all but non-existent previously, have become extremely powerful and well armed. The mistakes of Iraq and Libya must not be repeated yet again.
Having heard David Cameron set out his argument in Parliament last week and studied his written briefing, I am far from satisfied that UK air strikes would help improve the situation either in Syria or enhance our security in the UK.
The Prime Minister’s case relies on a number of highly contested assumptions.
As all agree that air strikes alone cannot defeat ISIS, his case rests hugely on the claim that there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ allies who could be called on take and hold territory if further air strikes were made. Whilst assessing the exact numbers and capabilities of these irregular forces is never going to be precise, what is obvious is that this is no ‘army’, but a collection of disparate groups with distinct and often competing interests.
They are not forces ‘held in reserve’ awaiting UK air strikes but, in the case of many, are fully engaged fighting not against ISIS / Daesh, but against the Assad government. Without a more general political settlement in Syria this is unlikely to change. However, when laying out his plans to us last week, David Cameron said, “I am also clear about the sequencing that needs to take place. This is an ISIL-first strategy.”
We should remember that this is far from the Prime Minister’s first strategy for military action in Syria. In 2013, he asked Parliament to approve air strikes against the forces of the Assad government and was only blocked from doing so by the votes of Labour MPs. I was not an MP at the time, but was in full agreement with colleagues who argued that the destruction of the Syrian army would not have led to a peaceful and stable Syria.
Had David Cameron’s 2013 strategy been followed, there is a very real prospect that the groups who went on to become ISIS would have been in charge of the majority, if not all, of Syrian territory and had access to many more weapons, including chemical weapons.
It is also worth remembering that it was the diplomatic settlement involving Russia that saw these weapons removed. If we are serious about a solution to this crisis, we have to involve all parties to the conflict, not just our allies.
The fact that Parliament blocked the Prime Minister from attacking those fighting what became ISIS led to the US abandoning their plans for such attacks. But now, the question of whether UK forces take part in air strikes is most definitely not the same as whether air strikes occur at all.
Air strikes against Daesh have been occurring for a year and a half so it is relevant to question what realistic impact a UK contribution would have. I don’t often agree with the Daily Mail, but as their Leader column said this week, “America has flown 57,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria in 17 months, carrying out 8,300 strikes without noticeable strategic effect. It is fantasy to pretend our handful of Tornados might turn the tide”.
US pilots are reported to be struggling to identify targets to strike.
There are many steps towards degrading ISIS / Daesh that must be pursued much more strongly. The UK government this week estimated ISIS are receiving $1.5m every single day from oil. Their control of oil fields would be of no value unless there are those willing to buy and transport what they produce. This trade must be stopped, as must the flows of supplies and fighters which currently cross the Turkish border without interference. Funding from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – our nominal allies – must also cease.
Rather than create further refugees to add to the millions who have already been displaced by this awful conflict, our priority should be the diplomatic process that can create an agreed pathway to a stable Syria. The renewed efforts, correctly this time including all those countries with influence over the Assad government, have a real chance of creating the political and military space that would allow for Daesh to be militarily engaged and defeated by domestic Syrian forces.
Achieving the lasting peace that Syrians desperately need and removing the territory from which ISIS have been able to plan terror attacks can only ever be one element of improving our security at home. Reducing support for the violent ideologies which promote terrorism needs a very broad range of approaches, from education and the alleviation of poverty to a consistent approach to human rights abuses whether carried out by friends or foes. Domestically, the cuts that have already been imposed on our police forces have made their job of detecting and disrupting terror plots harder, whilst the way the government’s ‘Prevent’ agenda is being pursued risks alienating sections of the community who are at the front line of combating the ideologies behind violent extremism.
I will be engaging in the debates that will continue over the coming days and will review any further evidence released by the government. However, I do not wish to see the brave air crew of the RAF placed in danger on a mission I do not believe will achieve its desired outcomes nor provide greater security for us at home.
Empty promises: Cartoonist Steve Bell draws a parallel between David Cameron’s claims and the (false) promises that drew the UK into a previous Middle East war.
They’re a bloodthirsty bunch, these Blairites and right-wingers and ‘moderates’ (perhaps This Writer was right to dub them ‘intolerants’)!
They say they want a free vote on air strikes in Syria, and it is clear that they want to support David Cameron’s plan of attack – because they believe in it, even though Cameron’s case is flimsy, or because they want to harm their own party leader, Jeremy Corbyn?
Or do they simply want to kill innocent children? I mention this because it will be an inevitable consequence, no matter what Cameron says about the accuracy of his eldritch Reapers, RAPTORs and Brimstones.
Perhaps some of them want to support Cameron simply because Corbyn has written to everybody in the Parliamentary Labour Party, providing his own reasoned argument for opposing the proposed air strikes, without telling them first. How petty. The letter reads:
“The Prime Minister made a Statement to the House today making the case for a UK bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria. A copy of my response has already been circulated.
“We have all been horrified by the despicable attacks in Paris and are determined to see the defeat of ISIS.
“Our first priority must be the security of Britain and the safety of the British people. The issue now is whether what the Prime Minister is proposing strengthens, or undermines, our national security.
“I do not believe that the Prime Minister today made a convincing case that extending UK bombing to Syria would meet that crucial test. Nor did it satisfactorily answer the questions raised by us and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
“In particular, the Prime Minister did not set out a coherent strategy, coordinated through the United Nations, for the defeat of ISIS. Nor has he been able to explain what credible and acceptable ground forces could retake and hold territory freed from ISIS control by an intensified air campaign.
“In my view, the Prime Minister has been unable to explain the contribution of additional UK bombing to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, or its likely impact on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.
“For these and other reasons, I do not believe the Prime Minister’s current proposal for air strikes in Syria will protect our security and therefore cannot support it.
“The Shadow Cabinet met today for an initial discussion and debated the issues extensively. We will meet again on Monday, when we will attempt to reach a common view.
“I will get in touch again when we know the timing of the debate and vote.”
Here’s another – expert – view which supports Corbyn’s position. These are strong arguments.
Cameron’s demand that the UK should join the US and France (and Russia, and who knows who else in the crowded skies over Syria) has been met with derision on the social media. “How does adding our three planes make the situation any better?” asked one wit, playing on an early Tory decision to reduce UK air power significantly.
Cameron’s plan involves bombing Daesh (IS if you like) from the air, while supplying ‘moderate’ rebels in order to use them as ground troops. It’s a recipe for disaster because there is no guarantee that any such funded and equipped group will not rise up and become the next Daesh. Many have done it in the past, and if Cameron reckons there are 70,000 of these people – a figure he cannot prove – that’s plenty of possible future terrorists.
(He got this information from the same source that told the UK Saddam Hussein could bomb British bases within 45 minutes; take it with a pinch of salt.)
So Cameron’s plan – as This Blog has pointed out very recently – is to continue the cycle of international stupidity. Here it is:
No Labour MP should be in favour of that! Or do they have shares in weapons-manufacturing firms?
Whichever way we cut it, it seems unlikely that ‘moderate’ Labour will be able to see far enough past its own petty interests to make a wise decision, if Cameron calls a vote.
One is moved to wonder how many dead innocents it will take to make them question their choice.
Perhaps it is up to us – the rank-and-file constituents – to make a better case. If you have a Labour MP, maybe it’s time to write them a short letter, urging them to follow the path of sanity and vote against Cameron’s pointless air strikes. You can mention the human cost, the cost to the UK economy, the fact that the plan perpetuates the cycle of terrorism and also, perhaps, the fact that Labour ‘moderates’ will be blamed when it all goes wrong.
Perhaps Daesh, or IS, is in less danger than the Parliamentary seats of these so-called ‘moderates’. Perhaps they should be given the opportunity to consider that possibility.
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