Statement on Syria

As he promised, the Prime Minister has set out a plan for action which includes extending British bombing into Syria. This brief statement sets out my position.

Having listened to the statement last week in the Commons, having read the accompanying document and other related information, I am not convinced of the case for extending British military bombing to Syria.

I have been cautious but open in considering the case for action. I waited to hear the Prime Minister’s case before deciding, to judge whether extending British bombing from Iraq to Syria would make us safer in Britain, or make life safer for Syrian civilians. I do not believe the case has been made, but I respect those who have come to a different view.

The Prime Minister has failed to make a compelling case for action: that British bombing in Syria will do anything more than marginally strengthen the action already being undertaken by other nations; that there is an effective ground force in place to clear and hold territory won; that we should go further than our current significant commitment in Iraq, and our existing provision of logistical and intelligence support in Syria.

The risks are significant: the risk of civilian casualties, especially as ISIL/Da’esh are reported to be actively embedding themselves in schools and hospitals, residential blocks and workplaces; the risk of encouraging extremism and the funding of extremism through such actions; the risk of being drawn into a deeper conflict in the region; the risk of strengthening Assad by eradicating ISIL/Da’esh in areas where there are no “moderate” forces to fill the vacuum.

Yet we can do more: by stopping the streams of funding and weapons to ISIL/Da’esh from other states in the region; by cutting off the oil revenues; by working with Turkey to seal the border and end the flow of recruits; but most of all, by putting colossal energy into the diplomatic and political efforts to secure a ceasefire and lasting peaceful settlement.

For all these reasons I will not support extending the British air strikes into Syria this week. If a more convincing and compelling case for action is put forward in future I will consider it on its merits, because ISIL/Da’esh unarguably needs to be extinguished. There is also a larger battle against the poisonous ideology of extremism which must be won in many parts of the world, including at home in Britain.

My thanks to the many local constituents and Labour Party members who have contacted me. I respect those who have come to a different conclusion on the need for Britain to engage in bombing in Syria. But it is for the Prime Minister to make a convincing case for the necessity of action, and the chances of success. I do not believe he has made that case, and therefore I will be voting against British airstrikes in Syria if the vote is put this week.