Taking part in airstrikes in Syria without prior parliamentary approval broke convention set from the Falklands conflict onwards. Clearly the Tories were frightened of losing a vote but as it transpired, the majority of Labour MPs made it clear that had there been a vote they would have voted in favour.
The SNP had led the calls for parliamentary recall but this was resisted. Theresa May made the ridiculous argument that a parliamentary session would jeopardise the mission…even although Trump tweeted to the world that he would be launching missiles! I put this point to the PM after she had made a statement. I also observed that they were acting differently regards Yemen, where Saudi Arabia used white phosphorous. And yet, the UK still sell arms to Saudi Arabia! Additionally, Saudi Arabia has used barrel bombs – bombs which are illegal, and another reason the UK used to take action against Assad. So there is rank hypocrisy across the entire decision. Worst of all, with chemical weapon inspectors due to arrive in Syria the next day, it made sense to allow them to fulfil their duties.
If there were chemical weapons used, and there are known chemical weapon factories, then an argument can be made for taking these out with minimum casualties. However, there is still no long term plan and nothing to show that this will prevent further chemical attacks. Additionally, absolute proof about the initial attack and who undertook the attack is outstanding.
In a bizarre admission that parliament scrutiny had been denied the PM herself applied for an emergency debate on Syria. Given that the Government control business then it was utterly farcical that they tried to choose that route. The Speaker rejected her request and instead granted the emergency debate to a Labour backbencher. Of course, the SNP had also put in a request for an emergency debate. To show how crazy things are with Labour at Westminster they then opted not to push their debate to a vote at the end. It was the SNP who had to force a vote, which Labour abstained on. Just think…Labour were granted an emergency debate on Syria, with the whole premise being that there hadn’t been enough consideration given to the matter. If that was the reasoning for the debate, then surely they should have voted accordingly?
The Tories now argue too that the Prime Minster giving a statement and taking questions for over 3 hours and a 3 hour emergency debate means that sufficient parliamentary time was allocated to the Syrian situation. The reality is that the Prime Minister ducked any hard questions and the emergency debate was oversubscribed and many MPs including myself were not called to speak. Many others didn’t even bother putting their names in as they knew only a few would get the chance to speak.
The final concern on all this, is that while the UK may “only” have fired 8 missiles [which each costs £800,000] without approval of parliament. This could now be a slippery slope for future interventions.
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard