An open letter on Syria

December 2, 2015

Houses of ParliamentDear Constituents

Since the horrific attacks in Paris there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not the UK should join in air strikes against Daesh (ISIL) in Syria.

With a vote pending, I believe it is only right that I convey my views to you. I believe that the Government and Parliament should always exercise extreme caution when considering military intervention so that British soldiers’ lives are not put at risk unnecessarily. Intervention for its own sake runs the risk of escalating the conflict and undermining Britain’s security, and that is why any proposal must have clear, achievable objectives and must be part of a longer-term strategy aimed at stabilising the country. The proposal MPs voted on in September 2013 did not meet these criteria, that is why I and other Labour MPs voted against the Government and stopped military action from going ahead.

Last week the Prime Minister made an emergency statement outlining the Government’s plans to extend air strikes against Daesh in Syria. There is no doubt that we are all determined to see Daesh defeated and clearly doing nothing is not an option. However, I am concerned that the plan the Prime Minister brought to the House was lacking in any comprehensive, cohesive, strategy for defeating Daesh involving regional powers and allies. Nor was he able to make clear how innocent Syrians caught up in the conflict would be protected.

I am also concerned that we do not have a true picture of how many supportive and non-supportive ground troops are currently in Syria. The Prime Minster said there are an estimated 70,000 moderate Sunni forces on the ground that could assist air strikes, yet I am not alone in questioning the ability of such forces to mobilise against Daesh.

Just yesterday, despite requests from Labour for a full two day debate on this issue, the Government announced that they will be pressing for a vote this evening.

I will of course attend today’s debate and listen fully to all arguments but, at this present time, I do not believe that, by taking part in air strikes alone, we will be making life better for the people of Syria or making our own country safer. Simply dropping bombs is not the answer, and unless I am presented with evidence to the contrary I intend to vote against the Governments motion this evening.

I understand that some of you may be disappointed with my decision and others will agree. Either way, I am sure you appreciate and understand why I have reached this decision.  This will be the most difficult vote I have ever taken part in and no matter what the outcome, I know that I will feel heavy hearted. But I also know from the many letters I received and conversations held that I have the support of you, my constituents, in reaching my decision and I want to thank you all and say how proud I am of the thoughtful, measured and caring people of Shields, who have shared their views with me prior to this important vote.




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