Thursday, 29 August 2013

Turning our backs on Syria? When the rhetoric gets in the way.

I generally think that Twitter is a good thing. It allows people to air their feelings, to be more connected, to be more open. It also allows people to turn armchair aristotle on us, and that can be a bit embarrassing.

Today's vote on the situation in Syria has shown parliament for what it should be - a living, breathing, thinking space. On very few occasions do you actually watch proceedings in the house and actually think that something is being considered and contemplated - very rarely do you think that a decision is being made there and then, without the help of back room deals or agreements.

What has happened since the vote has been far less interesting.

I've seen people online condemn the government for rubber stamping the use of chemical weapons on civilians. I've seen people saying that they'll go to sleep tonight ashamed to be British. I've seen people write that this is a massive victory for Labour and that Cameron should resign. I hope that in time, the tweeters look back on all of those things and feel a little bit embarrassed. Quite clearly, tonight's result isn't what a lot of people would have wanted, but this was not anybody condoning the use of chemical weapons. Similarly, it needn't, and better not, mean the UK turning it's back on the people of Syria.

The failure of tonight's motions does make military action on the evidence that we currently have incredibly unlikely, and I'm glad that it does. It isn't because of Iraq (though you'd be forgiven for thinking so) it's because we simply cannot and should not take forceful action against anybody on the strength of the evidence that we currently have. We need to remember, amongst the grandstanding and pontificating, that we still do not have a solid enough basis for full scale intervention. Was the Iraq war fought on less? Very probably. Were MPs more reticent to support it in the light of Iraq? Very possibly also.

However, let this be clear. A decision on intervention needs to be made on the merits of the evidence, and that alone. Not party political mudslinging. Not whether or not it will turn out to be like Iraq. Not whether it'll affect the 'special relationship'. A decision of that magnitude should be made of the facts of the situation and nothing more. My conclusion was that the facts simply were not there.

What I will support, wholeheartedly, is a move to ensure that those people who say that we're turning out backs on Syria are proved wrong. I hope, deep down, that the lasting legacy of this night, isn't of the UK turning a blind eye, it's of the UK playing by the rules and offering support in more than just firepower.

So - bugger the rhetoric. Bugger Ed Miliband getting applauded into his whips office. And bugger what this means for David Cameron's leadership.

Tonight, millions of people sleep in refugee camps whilst their homeland is torn asunder. Tonight, hundreds of people lay dead after chemical weapons were turned upon them. Tonight, we need to stand with the people of Syria who wanted not the first thing to do with the whole sorry affair.

In the face of tonight's vote, we must stand with the people of Syria in word and deed.

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