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Syria and the Use of Chemical weapons - A Victory for Parliament over Government

September 14, 2013 10:12 AM
By Guy Grainger - Gainsborough
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Parliament was recalled on August 29th to debate a motion that the British Government should consider military action against Syria and a Labour amendment that this should only be considered once the UN Inspectors had reported. Parliament has in effect said "a plague on both your houses" by defeating the motion and the amendment. Britain will take no part in any military campaign in Syria but will continue its not insignificant humanitarian support.

Our local MP, Sir Edward Leigh, spoke eloquently in the debate. He said "How much does the House know about what is actually happening in Syria? Yet we believe that we, who know so little about the complexities of the situation, have the moral right to commit execution on people. That is what we are talking about. We cannot send cruise missiles into a country without killing people. That is what we would be doing. What right has the House to say with any certainty that we know what went on that day? What right have we to say that we can sort out the situation? No, there is a better way-the way of peace and diplomacy, not of war. I cannot, therefore, support the motion tonight."

I applaud Sir Edward's honesty in the clear statement of his position. He was true to his word and did not vote for the Government's motion but his abstention failed to reinforce his strong words in the debate - whilst his Conservative neighbours Andrew Percy, Martin Vickers and Sir Peter Tapsell all found the personal courage to vote against the Government's motion .

I understand that Sir Edward found himself in a difficult spot - like many other MPs on the night.

The lesson that perhaps David Cameron has learnt is that a Prime Minister should not try and bounce Parliament and the British people into commencing the process towards war.

If Cameron had been patient enough to wait until a stronger case for intervention could have been put to Parliament - including definitive evidence from the UN chemical weapons inspectors then he could well have won the argument and the vote in the House of Commons - and Britain would have still been on the slippery slope to military intervention.

Actually in the end Cameron lost last week because of an ineffective Conservative Chief Whip, Sir George Young, who failed totally to deliver the required Conservative votes. Young probably will be sacked in the near future - though history may decide that this 'ineptitude' may have saved Britain from being sucked into another 'Iraq'.