Update on 3rd October 2014:
It’s very hard in a day – which is the notice we had – to get a representative opinion of my constituents (only 0.5% voted online).
I did check the poll results, and I did read every email sent to me. The fact that a majority were in favour did make me pause and reconsider whether voting “no” was the right thing to do.
In the end I could not vote for military action that I do not agree with and can’t see being effective.
I would like to thank everyone who emailed me about UK military action in Iraq and those who voted in the online poll on my website. I took all the views expressed into account in making the difficult decision on how to vote on this military action, noting that around two thirds of replies/votes were in favour.
After careful reflection I decided I could not support this military action and so I voted “no” today.
This was one of the most difficult votes of my time in Parliament. ISIL are clearly an abhorrent, evil movement. The recorded be-headings and atrocities in Iraq and Syria are an affront to civilised people everywhere. If I thought for a moment that air-strikes would rid the world of this movement, I would happily support the action.
However, in my view we can’t fix the brutal conflict between Sunni and Shia muslims with Western military action and while air strikes might provide some short term successes, it will not fix the problem. There is no clear strategy in place for resolving this conflict – this will very likely require boots-on-the-ground in Iraq and Syria – who will provide these? There’s no sign that the Iraqi armed forces have the ability or the will to do this, or that the Iraqi government can unite their Sunni, Kurdish and Shia populations.
It is also clear that to be effective, action could not be restricted to Iraq alone. While I have no doubt that action in Iraq is legal, following the invitation from their Government, I am not clear how action in Syria could be justified in the absence of a UN resolution.
The Government set out that this is not likely to be a short-term operation and it may last 3 years – which looks implausibly long for air-strikes alone. This looks like the thin-end of the wedge that will inexorably lead to more action in Iraq and Syria – even though neither is contemplated by today’s vote.
In summary, I could not support UK military action without a realistic prospect of success and extricating the UK from this action in the foreseeable future.
I wish our servicemen and women well in this conflict. I do absolutely agree that we need to do more to stop the radicalisation of young people in the UK, and we absolutely must ensure that no-one who has travelled to fight for Isis can return to the UK.