North Thanet MP Roger Gale
by Roger Gale,
MP for Thanet North
The Prime Minister, following representations from many government backbenchers and discussions with the leader of the opposition, last week went the “extra mile” and tabled a motion that allowed time for the UN weapons inspectors to report before instigating any military action against Syria.
Most significantly, he also guaranteed a further vote in parliament before any such action could be taken. That was not, as some have sought to present it, “an endorsement of military action”.
The terms of the motion could not have been clearer and it offered everything that those who, like myself, had expressed grave reservations about precipitate military intervention, had asked for.
On that basis the Prime Minister had a right to expect that not only his own back bench, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but also the leader of the Labour party and his members would support the motion.
At the 11th hour [Labour leader] David Miliband chose instead to table an amendment that was, in terms, virtually identical to the government`s motion and gave himself the “wriggle room” to renege on the undertaking that he had clearly given to the Prime Minister.
The outcome of that action may have a profound effect not only upon Mr Miliband’s political future, but much more importantly upon the whole future of the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
Had the government motion been carried there would have been time, while awaiting the report of the international arms inspectors, to have sought not a UN Security Council resolution that would almost certainly have been blocked by Russia and China but, as I suggested during Thursday`s debate, a vote of the entire General Assembly of the United Nations – a vote that would have stood a much greater chance of success.
By defeating the government at this stage, however, and by effectively ruling out any United Kingdom military intervention of any kind, we have, I think wholly unnecessarily, weakened our own position in the world, undermined our negotiating position and that of our allies and made further oppression of the women and children of Syria more likely, the prospects for peace in the Middle East more remote and an already bad situation infinitely more dangerous.
The full text of Mr Gale's article is in this week's Thanet Extra - out now.