I’m grateful to all the constituents who have written to me since the vote to approve in principle military action in Syria, in which I voted against.
An overwhelming majority of correspondents have approved of that decision, just as they have also condemned the use of chemical weapons. We all want action to end the violence and outrageous suffering in Syria.
General Lord Dannatt, a previous head of the British Army, described the vote as ‘victory for common sense’ and said, “I’m absolutely convinced the use of explosive ordinance into Damascus at the present moment will make the situation in that very difficult Syrian civil war worse.” He has written for the Telegraph, ‘There’s no military solution – yet’.
General Lord Dannatt is not alone amongst people who know something about war. In the course of the day, I headed up to the House of Lords in time to hear Lord Boyce’s scepticism, just before Lord Tebbit declared,
My Lords, I think we can be confident that we would all agree that the Government have got one thing absolutely right today: they put down a Motion on which there could not be a vote in this House. I think that was a very wise move.
It seems likely the Government would have lost a vote in the Lords too.
Finally, this morning’s BBC Today programme is running with the story that the United States plans much wider action than previously realised. For reasons I have given before, I am not surprised. There is talk of increasing support for particular rebel groups and again I am not surprised. The foreign policy establishment will want to engineer particular outcomes. Given nationalism is one of the crucial problems, fueling it with Western military action seems to me likely to reinforce cycles of violence and revolution. Arab leadership is essential.
A lasting end to this carnage will require a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. Diplomacy and humanitarian aid, especially to refugees, must continue and be reinforced.