Government-bench MPs were decisive in moderating policy on Syria

Anyone reading the BBC news site this morning might think Labour, the party which led us into Iraq, had saved the day. Via BBC News – MPs debate Syria after ministers drop quick vote on action:

MPs are set to debate military action in Syria in principle only, after the government dropped plans for a speedy vote on British intervention.

A Commons motion to be debated later states that a final vote on action should be held only after UN inspectors report on an alleged chemical attack.

Labour had threatened to withdraw its support for the government’s plans.

In truth, the Opposition are there to oppose: they frequently do not support the Government’s plans. The Government changes course in response to Opposition action when it appears sufficient numbers of their own MPs will join the Opposition to inflict a defeat.

It appears yesterday’s ring-around by the Whips revealed such a prospect.

Of course the use of chemical weapons is a “moral obscenity” but isn’t snipers shooting children? Syria isn’t merely a tyranny oppressing a subjugated people: Syria suffers a full-blown civil war. Far more caution is required in international relations.

Amongst the most infantile of the arguments being advanced by the advocates of war is the concept of “humanitarian intervention”. I thank God I have not had to care for those killed and seriously injured in battle. One close to me who has is absolutely clear that the use of armed force is never “humanitarian”.

What is needed is a ceasefire, however imperfect it may be, and a peace conference. That is what the Government should work towards, not war as punishment. Punishment must be meted out by courts against individuals, not nations against nations.

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Comments & Responses

21 Responses so far.

  1. Vincent says:

    Congratulations on your vote against Cameron in the Commons last night!

  2. Ed McKeon says:

    I greatly admire and respect your independence from within the governing party on many matters, none more so than your position on last night’s vote – for exactly the reasons you state i.e. of principle, rather than of political calculation.

  3. Kathy Thomson says:

    Well done Steve for last nights vote !
    We are delighted that, in many of our eyes, you have potentially halted the start of World War 3 !
    As a Conservative councillor in Marlow, I am ashamed at the way Cameron et al have so naively tried to push us into a war in the Middle East that we cannot begin to understand.
    Thank you for your courage
    Kathy Thomson

  4. Kevin Dowd says:

    Well done Steve! You have done us all a great service in voting against Cameron on this issue and for exactly the reasons Ed set out, i.e., principle over politics.
    Can always count on you to take a principled position!
    We just need more like you …

  5. Qadeer Ahmed says:

    WELL DONE STEVE you have done us proud, I know the sort pressures you guys are put under by the whips and at the end of the day you have to work with these guys and you will also need their support in your everyday parliament business. However, I strongly believe that job of a member of parliament is to reflect the view of his electorate who have put him/her in there in the 1st place something I believe has been lost on some MP’s.

    This is not a failure for anyone, I think; this is a triumph, in that it shows democracy in action. Thank God you have a system that actually allows for a balance of power, and of multiple perspectives. I deeply respect the English system, this system suffered greatly under Blair’s presidential style of government where Parliament was subservient and there was unacceptable levels of arm twisting of MP’s to get them to vote with the government of the day.

    This shouldn’t be considered as Cameron losing the Commons vote but the Commons reflecting what most people think. There is no doubt about the horror of conflict in Syria but remember where Blair’s comments about WMD’s in Iraq got us despite the UN inspectors reports.

    I am happy because this is what the people wanted. However let’s not forget the atrocities going on. I’m not sure we could make things better which is why I questioned military involvement. Syria is a no win for everyone, not least the civilians who are caught up in a war they neither want nor asked for, fought between two sides who have shown an utter disregard for them.

    The US/Obama have become utter hypocrites, they recently oversaw overthrow of a democratically elected government in Egypt and then we saw murder of 600 plus whose only fault was to protest against the military coup, I don’t remember anyone in the US and UK for that matter contemplating military action or even sanctions. The US actually pays the murderous regime in Egypt $1.5 billion per year, simple fact is if you are US ally you can do what you like as is the case with Egypt, Israel (used white phosphors and depleted uranium against Palestinians) rest of dictators in the Middle East other countries.

    We are 1.2 TRILLION pounds in debt, the US is 17 TRILLION dollars in debt, we are cutting back our own services because we cannot afford anything yet we just so happen to find the money to help members of terrorist groups who frankly we will probably be fighting against in 5 years time (as is the case in Afghanistan). I never thought I’d see the day when I agreed with Putin more than Cameron.

    Our involvement in Syria would have fuel the fire of radicalisation even further, as Sir Mike Jackson former head of our armed forces stated that terrorism has increased tenfold since our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan therefore I am glad that our Parliament has backed the majority view of the UK public. Violence is never solved by even more violence one only has to look at recent past.

    Steve we are proud to have you as our member of Parliament and you are breath of fresh air in a system where people tend to go with media hype rather than their own convictions and beliefs you also demonstrated this during the same sex marriage vote as well.

    Quote from the former foreign secretary, said: “I cannot for the life of me see how dropping some bombs or firing some missiles in the general direction of Syria, with targets probably some way removed from the actual weapons we’ve been criticising, I can’t see how that action is going to lessen the suffering of Syrian people.

    Says it all really.

    • Ania says:

      Well said Qadeer, totally agree with you and glad that Steve didn’t support the vote. We don’t need another world war and what gives us the right to go and get into a war which is nothing to do with us anyway?!

    • Denise Brook says:

      Quadeer Ahmed says everything I believe and feel but much more eloquently than I could.

      Denise Brook

  6. Paul says:

    Congratulations, I’m glad you stood up to the government on this, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Douglas Carswell did not have your fortitude to stand up to the government, but I’m glad you stood firm!

  7. Patrick Scully says:

    As someone who has always voted conservative, for you at the last election and for Paul and Ray before you, I think it is a sad day.

    Having been a serviceman in Aden and NI I am well aware of the futility and heartbreak of conflict.

    Having been brought up as a child in Burma I know what it is like to grow up under a repressive regime and it is not pleasant but at least we had hope which must be lacking in Syria especially after the rug was pulled away last night.

    When you vote against taking action against a perpetrator of Chemical attacks against his own people, including children, but not against gay marriage because it might ‘offend personal friends’ that in my opinion IS political calculation of the worst kind and not ‘principal’. So when you finish patting yourself on the back on your 34th ‘rebellion’ you can reflect on the fact that it will be us the electorate who will have to pay the price of your and others ego trip and politicking when, as looks likely, we are lander with another disastrous Labour administration.

    As I said a sad, very sad, day.

    • There will certainly be a repressive regime when/if Assad falls – a sharia, totalitarian, sinister and still violent state – can the West guarantee this will not happen?

      • Patrick Scully says:

        So you argument is that since ‘the West’ cannot guarantee that the people will not be oppressed in the future why bother trying! It’s a view but not one I share.

  8. Christopher Stewart says:

    Mr. Baker,

    I strongly disagree with your comparison of chemical warfare to sniping. Yes, both are moral obscenities but this is a superficial comparison. Chemical warfare can kill and disable thousands at a time. Today’s technology for peaceful mediation simply can’t react fast enough to enact cease fires before thousands die. Indeed, your plan for cease fire would work because the Assad regime will have killed all dissidents in the next 2 years. I guess that’s peace.

    Britain, the US, Russia, China, and all other moral world leading democracies should join forces to ensure that Assad’s regime does not have the capability to use chemical weapons ever again. That may mean regime change. It may mean something else.

    I too prefer peaceful solutions. However, I am also realistic. There is no way for peace to come about in time to save people that will be mutilated by chemical attacks if immediate action is not taken. I value human life.

    • Steve Baker says:

      Your advocacy of immediate war on a grand scale has the advantage of being an honest statement of a route to ultimate peace but the disadvantage of requiring war on a grand scale.

      All decent people value human life and that is why I prefer the advocacy of immediate peace to total war.

  9. Louisa Watson says:

    I am so glad that Cameron’s madness has been defeated, and Britain at least will not be joining the carnage. You and the other MPs who voted with their conscience have made a stand for British democracy.

  10. Qadeer Ahmed says:

    Christopher & Patrick, you seem to be believing the story that Assad has used chemical weapons but there is no proof.

    Obama has been calling for war but he has not shown any evidence to the UN or anyone. So one is innocent until proven guilty in the West but we apply different standards elsewhere.

    Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions it really in their interest to use chemical weapons now?

    Americans have always lied and misled rest of the world, just look at history of Vietnam, Chile, Panama, Iraq & Afghanistan to name a few. As for calling US moral 3 million dead Vietnamese and 1/2 million Iraqis and thousands of Afghans might disagree with you.

    You say worlds leading democracies should attack but public opinion in all of them is against therefore all Steve has done is reflected that opinion after all this is how democracy works.

    • Patrick Scully says:


      I never mentioned Assad, I said ‘take action against a perpetrator who uses chemical weapons’. Given that the UN report was a key hurdle and I would expect it to incude their assessment of who was to blame and I would take their word on the matter in preference to Obama or Assad. I trust that you would as well?

      The motion on Thursday included a number of hurdles that needed to be cleared before limited action, not all out war, could be taken and then only after another vote seemed sufficient to me. However given It seems nobody trusts any politician, thanks to Blair and others, if the hurdles were not sufficient then these should have been challenged not just thrown out.

      The message I take from the vote is that Steve and his fellow rebels do not trust there own leaders to do what they say and have put in a parliamentary motion – so pray tell me why I or anyone else should trust them or for that matter the rebels who are out of the same starting blocks?

  11. Philip Allen says:

    I was pleased to see your name amongst the rebels on this vote, but surprised at the reasons you have given. Surely, the best reason for objecting is the lack of strategic plan behind the current plans and the universal expectation that military action will achieve precisely nothing. By comparison, Iraq was a sane decision (though I don’t suppose anyone else will agree with me).

  12. Tery Hamer says:

    While both applauding and agreeing with your principled vote, perhaps we should remember that the result was a very narrow defeat, and that the vote was missed by so many MPs. Had the Parliamentary process really worked, then the result would (probably) have been whipped to a Win. Cruise missiles may well have been launched tonight. So much for democracy with a conscience.

    Still, it’s gratifying to see that Obama has followed the UK’s democratic example and will put the question of another War to the US representatives. Maybe he’ll get the answer he wants, whatever it is.