“This week the Prime Minister is likely to call a vote on whether the UK should pursue a bombing campaign against ISIL/Daesh in Syria.
I am grateful to the thousands of local residents who have already contacted me with your thoughts. The depth and strength of the feeling this issue has generated locally only reinforces how important this decision is. Overwhelmingly you have told me you’re against air strikes.
I believe the decision to commit our armed forces into military action is the most serious a Government can take. As a newly elected Member of Parliament this is the first time I will face such a vote and over recent months I have been closely following the case for and against UK military intervention.
It is clear that ISIL/Daesh needs to be defeated. They pose a threat both regionally in their main area of military operations and internationally through terrorism. Their reign of terror has seen women subjected to unspeakable sexual violence, gay people killed and thousands upon thousands across the Middle East forced to flee their homes. The horrific attacks in Paris saw people of all ages, cultures and faiths enjoying the start of the weekend only to be caught up in indiscriminate acts of violence. We will all remember the shock at seeing the bloody images at the Bataclan and on the Paris streets. Innocent civilians in Egypt, Beirut, Ankara and Tunisia have been brutally murdered and I am in no doubt that they pose a threat to us here in the UK.
The question I have sought to answer is whether a UK bombing campaign will lead to the defeat of ISIL/Daesh. I have looked at the record of other Western interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, read the thoughts of the many constituents who have contacted me and listened carefully as the Prime Minister set out his case.
Ultimately, I have made the decision to vote against air strikes in Syria because I do not believe the Prime Minister has set out a strong enough case for how this action will lead to ISIL/Daesh’s defeat or provided assurances that it will not put the British people at greater risk.
The situation in Syria is incredibly complex with no one single enemy and the vast majority of the millions who have left their homes since the civil war started are fleeing Assad. Air strikes are already taking place by the US, France, Russia and other powers yet it is clear that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL/Daesh. The Prime Minister himself accepts that ground troops will be needed but it is unclear if Kurdish or Free Syrian Army forces could take on this role. When Jeremy Corbyn questioned the Prime Minister he asked “is it not more likely that other stronger jihadist and radical Salafist forces would take over?” a question I don’t believe has been adequately addressed.
The UK has a diplomatic strength we should rightly be proud of. I believe our resources and efforts are best directed towards trying to achieve a Syrian Peace Process, which would secure an immediate ceasefire and plan for an orderly transition from an Assad-led government prior to national elections. This may appear a distant goal, but it is nevertheless crucial as ISIL/Daesh thrives where vacuums of power and conditions of chaos exist.
Here in London we are uniquely placed to use the city’s massive resources and technological expertise to help intensify international efforts to cut off the flow of funds and arms to ISIL/Daesh. We should also be taking the lead in pushing for a co-ordinated humanitarian response to the refugee crisis that is an inevitable result of the turmoil in Syria.
Crucially, we need to challenge the ideology that still today is seeing young men and women joining Isil/Daesh. I fear that a bombing campaign with the risk of further civilian casualties will only drive greater numbers into the recruiting grounds of their poisonous propaganda.
As I write this, no formal proposal has been put to MPs. I will continue to carefully consider any proposals the Government brings forward to address the persisting threat of ISIL/Daesh, but at this time I do not believe the case has been made for UK military intervention.”