My views on Syria

In a lengthy and in depth discussion at the Cardiff West Labour Party monthly meeting last Friday we agreed that there were no easy moral certainties over the debate on Syria.

Those on either side of the argument who see the question of what is the right thing for the UK to do in black and white, ignore the fact that this is not a question of war and peace.

Civilians are already the victims of a number of unscrupulous forces from the Assad regime itself and their Hezbollah allies, to the Jihadists in the so called moderate opposition and of course the greatest threat to the UK in the high tech murderous medievalism of ISIL/Daesh.

The question for Parliament is how to act in a way that will remove the territory from ISIL/Daesh control, bring an eventual ceasefire amongst other forces and bring about a transitional settlement to end the Civil War.

It is an incredibly complex and difficult diplomatic task, but the first steps are being taken via the Geneva Process.

I do not believe that the UK joining in the current bombing in Syria will help the process, or defeat ISIL/Daesh; and there is a danger that it will unintentionally lead to civilian casualties and deepen the sense of grievance which ISIL/Daesh feeds upon.

Like any civilised person I was appalled by the Paris massacres.  People joining together to enjoy a meal, watch a football match or attend a music concert represents the best of human nature.

People joining together to deliberately murder other people in pursuit of a twisted ideology represents the worst of human nature. Those who in anyway seek to transfer the blame for these actions to Western Governments are wrong.

We are responsible for our own actions and their impact on innocent civilians, and we must always hold our Government to account in order to minimise harm when the state uses force to defend us.

But an entity which sends its supporters to deliberately massacre civilians, rape and enslave women, behead aid workers, brutally execute prisoners, throw gay people from tall buildings and murder those of their own and other religions simply because they do not completely share their beliefs, is an entity that is in a completely different moral universe.

A small number of the many representations I have received on this subject seem to ignore this and argue a moral equivalence or worse, with our government and its predecessors. I reject that completely.

In our discussion last Friday there was a sombre seriousness and real effort to engage with the complexity of the debate. There was no sloganeering or vacuous name-calling, but a recognition that a decision like the one we may face in parliament this week involves shades of grey rather than black and white certainties.

Most of those at our meeting did not favour bombing. Some did on the grounds of our obligation of solidarity with our French allies and the need to act in Syria as well as Iraq.

But they also made it clear that they wanted me, having listened to all the arguments, to make up my own mind based on what I thought was right.

Of course no MP would be worth their salt if they did anything other than that on a matter of such gravity, and I respect colleagues who take a different position to me for that reason.

In one sense the debate about whether any vote should be whipped is irrelevant. Like every colleague I have spoken to, I will vote for what I believe is right whatever the Whips say, and as the debate currently stands that will mean voting against extending UK bombing to Syria.

We must all accept that whatever the vote this does not end the crisis. Even if the Commons votes against extending the bombing, Britain remains a prime target for ISIL/Daesh because they hate our pluralism, democracy and freedom, and they want to divide us against each other by creating fear and hatred.

Our strongest weapons against this are our values: a respect for human rights, for freedom of religion, and equality (regardless of race, gender or sexuality).

We cannot always avoid having to fight, but let us always remember what we are fighting for.