Readers of the Journal will know from my last column that I strongly support the extension of British military action against Isil/Daesh to Syria so nobody will be surprised to learn that I voted in favour of doing so in the House of Commons this week.
But for those of my constituents who are troubled by this move, I hope to offer some reassurance today by quoting from some of the speeches by MPs from opposition parties, who voted with me to support the Prime Minister’s proposals.
Margaret Beckett, Foreign Secretary in the last Labour government, said this: “I invite the House to consider how we would feel, and what we would say, if what took place in Paris had happened in London and if we explicitly asked France for support and France refused. It is the urgings of the United Nations and of the socialist Government in France that, for me, have been the tipping point in my decision to support military action.”
Alan Johnson, Home Secretary in the last Labour government, said: “I believe that Isil/Daesh must be confronted and destroyed if we are properly to defend our country and our way of life.”
Yvette Cooper, Work and Pensions Secretary in the same Labour government said: “I do not think that we can leave it to other countries to take the strain. I cannot ignore the advice from security experts that without coalition airstrikes over the next 12 months the threat from Daesh – in the region, but also in Europe and in Britain - will be much greater.”
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “What pushes me in the direction of voting for action is, above all, United Nations resolution 2249, which calls for us to eradicate the safe haven that Daesh has in Syria.”
And in what was the best speech that I have ever heard in the House of Commons, and which secured spontaneous and sustained applause from MPs on all sides, Hilary Benn, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary summed up for all of us when he said this: “We are faced by fascists – not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber and all the people we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our democracy – the means by which we will make our decision tonight – in contempt. What we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. It is why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. My view is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.”