Wigan MP to vote against UK air strikes on Syria

Lisa Nandy MP
Lisa Nandy MP

WIGAN’S Lisa Nandy says she plans to oppose UK air strikes on Islamic State in Syria.

The MP exclusively reveals her intentions in her column for this week’s Wigan Observer ahead of a free vote in Parliament on Wednesday.

She says that while the “murderous” IS (or ISIL Daesh) needs to be dealt with and that Prime Minister David Cameron has both gone through the proper channels by seeking UN backing and provided a “compelling” argument for attacking the regime, she says the plan is also “deeply flawed.”

Ms Nandy suggests that the PM’s reluctance to back up the air attacks with troops on the ground will render the operation ineffective and she criticises both a lack of Government commitment to concentrating on military and strategic targets to minimise civilain casualties and the lack of an exit strategy.

As a result she says she does not feel she can back bombings at present, although doesn’t rule out changing her mind if her concerns are addressed.

The Labour Party is split over the Syrian issue with leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is against air strikes, facing widespread opposition from fellow MPs.

Here is Ms Nandy’s column in full:

The recent Paris attacks rocked the world. If anyone in Europe was in any doubt about the threat posed by ISIL Daesh, these were the events that surely changed things. The Paris attacks were far from the first. In recent years this murderous group have killed the Salford aid worker Alan Henning, British tourists in Tunisia, and thousands more in Ankara, Beirut, Syria and across the world.

The Prime Minister is right to say they are a threat to our security. I could not agree with him more that there must be action to deal with ISIL and the threat they pose. The UK is currently bombing ISIL in Iraq yet we know their headquarters are in Syria and that without defeating them in Syria we cannot hope to defeat them at all. Their actions are sickening and whichever choice we make - to take military action now or to choose not to do so, will have serious consequences.

That’s why I listened to David Cameron carefully last week when he asked the House of Commons to support his case for war. He has rightly gone to the UN who have agreed a security council resolution calling on member states to take all necessary measures to defeat ISIL Daesh. This week the government published legal advice that shows clearly that there is a legal basis -of collective self defence - for military action.

But while Cameron’s moral and legal case for military action was compelling, his plan is deeply flawed. He told MPs air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL. I agree with him. But the success of UK air strikes relies on an effective ground force. The government has ruled out British troops, instead relying on 70,000 fighters from the Syrian Free Army - who are scattered across the region, who have wildly differing aims, and who are unlikely to number anything like the 70,000 the Prime Minister claims.

He did not set out clear limits on UK involvement. Despite requests, he has not made an explicit commitment that the UK will target military and strategic targets and seek to minimise civilian deaths. He has set out no clear plan for reconstruction nor how it would be funded, nor how to deal with the likely movement of people following air strikes.

I am not a pacifist. I am proud of the role our armed forces have played in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and other conflicts around the world. If the UK can take action that will safeguard Britain, halt the spread of hatred and save lives I firmly believe we should take it. But as Wigan’s MP my first responsibility is to my constituents, and to the servicemen and women from Wigan who will take part in conflict. I am not convinced the plan the Prime Minister has put forward thus far will make us safer or reduce the threat of ISIL Daesh. And in the absence of that, while I fully support Britain’s role in negotiating a political settlement for Syria, and I remain open minded to the possibility of intervention if these serious questions are addressed, I cannot support him in this week’s vote on military action.