MP to vote against Syrian air strikes

MP Marie Rimmer
MP Marie Rimmer
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MARIE Rimmer MP has said she plans to vote against air strikes on Islamic State in Syria.

The St Helens and Whiston MP set out her reasons for opposing military intervention in Syria in open letter to her constituents ahead of a free vote in parliament on Wednesday.

In it she says that she believes the Prime Minister’s argument for military intervention is “based on a flawed notion” that Britain should not let others fight its battles in Syria alone.

Here is Ms Rimmer’s letter in full:

Dear Constituent,

I have had a great deal of contact from people expressing their view about the situation in Syria in general and the question of military intervention in particular. Given this, I wanted to set out my position.

First, I acknowledge, no doubt as you will, that this matter is of remarkable complexity. In this regard, any decision made, whether to intervene militarily or not, must be made on the basis of as much relevant and pertinent information and evidence as possible. Moreover, it must stand up to scrutiny in the forum that will ultimately make the decision to undertake the bombing of ISIS, namely Parliament. No one person or group reaching any decision on this very sensitive issue has the right to claim the moral high ground or unassailable certainty. I do not, especially in the context of the suffering being inflicted upon the innocent in Syria.

Second, in his recent statement to Parliament, the Prime Minister very reasonably and articulately set out his “Four Pillars” in relation to the Syrian crisis; namely the counter terrorism strategy, the diplomatic and political process, military action to degrade and destroy ISIS and immediate humanitarian aid.

Third, I acknowledge that this is a reasonable framework within which a debate on this issue, and subsequently a decision, should take place. However, it must be done on that basis, namely a “Four Pillar” comprehensive strategy and not by putting into effect just one or two of the “pillars” in isolation with the intention of the other pillars being constructed at some future unspecified date. In effect, the current position does not constitute the required comprehensive approach but a partial one, which is a real concern.

Fourth, in my estimation, the key pillar set out by the Prime Minister is the political and diplomatic process. However, it is not so much this aim itself that I disagree with, who would? My concern is more about the practical implementation and outcomes of the aim. What would that actually entail? What is the time table for implementation of any agreements arising from that process? What is the likely success of the process given the multitude of interested and competing parties in a widely recognised volatile mix? For example, at present there is no clear plan at all as to who will end up governing Syria, nor how we are going to get neighbouring Arab countries involved and no specified role for the UN in any ongoing settlement.

Fifth, I also fear that other pillars of the strategy, whilst genuinely laudable (for example, humanitarian support and aid), are also unclear in their aims and extent and, crucially, the delivery of them. In addition, it goes without saying that a systematic counter terrorism approach is crucial in any strategy, but it does beg the question as to whether or not such a strategy is dependent upon military intervention per se as the two are not, so to speak, symbiotically linked or mutually dependent.

Sixth, taking all these elements into account, to activate just one “pillar”, namely military action in the form of bombing is inappropriate, notwithstanding the interventions currently under way by other nations. I do not want to crudely misinterpret one of the Prime Minister’s arguments about the need for British intervention. But it appears to be significantly, if not primarily, based on a flawed notion. This is that other nations are fighting our battles for and are protecting our national security through the bombing of ISIS, and that we should fight our own battles, (albeit in alliance with others) otherwise it reflects upon our national integrity. This argument predominantly appeals to pride rather than reason and we all know it can come before a fall.

Finally, let me make it clear that I am in no position to criticise the decisions of other people in this matter nor would I. I can only speak for myself. But I hope this sets out my position, at this point in the process, as clearly and succinctly as possible given the complexity of the issues facing all of us.