Monday, 11 August 2014

In Westminster today but do not believe parliament should be recalled

A few colleagues on both sides of the House are calling for parliaments recall.  For my part my present plans are simple - today I am in Westminster and then the next 3 weeks I am working in Northumberland, catching the 8am train north tomorrow morning. If we are recalled then it is a simple process, but I do not seek a recall. What we can, or should, decide to do differently is a separate matter, which is much much harder.

There is no doubt that the ISIS threat to Middle eastern stability, and normal life, is all too real for the embattled minorities such as the Yazidis, the Kurds and Christians. I believe our present approach is the correct one with extensive aid support, diplomatic pressure, some technical specialist support and extensive efforts diplomatically in bringing the western allies to a supportive agreement that threatened minorities should be protected. The question is whether we wish the RAF to get involved in air strikes against ISIS, or our troops to be more active in events in the Middle East generally? This is the desire of some commentators and former military chiefs like Lord Dannatt. 
I respect the former general but there is no appetitive for boots on the ground amongst my constituents. As always, we have to ask simple questions like - what would our objective be, how long are we prepared to be involved, who are we helping, what is the cost in terms of loss of life and what are the unintended consequences? I definitely want to see the rest of the Arab world step up to the plate where there is conflict on their doorstep. Part of the problem is the expectation that it is always the USA and western alliance countries, including France and Britain, who will do the heavy lifting and the hard yards in their backyard. The flip side of that is that having got involved in regime change through Blair more than 10 years ago some would argue that we are duty bound to support the country that is now struggling to defend itself from radicals? But any actions in the past - whether we agree or disagree with the Blair / Bush approach - do not mean we have to act now.
Finally, there is no doubt most constituents of mine were strongly against any action in Syria when Assad was caught using chemical weapons on his people. 
I certainly want the current humanitarian effort to be extended, and want a better coalition of supportive countries led by the UN to be assessing the situation. I am also certain that UK military and diplomatic chiefs are assessing options but the reality is that this is a very challenging and changing situation literally thousands of miles away. But I do not seek parliaments recall for now.