Give peace a try

 

             Yesterday Conservative MPs queued up in Parliament to question or oppose the Coalition government’s strategy towards Syria. The day ended with the good  news that the government accepts the will of Parliament and the view of the British people, that we should not intervene militarily in the conflict.

             It all began with the Conservative MPs who opposed the idea of arming the rebels. We said that Parliament had to be convened and consulted before any change of policy towards Syria when it was suggested the government might start to arm the rebels once the summer recess started. The government announced yesterday that it now agrees we should not  arm the rebels and should not seek to intervene in the Syrian civil war, save for the question of how to respond to the use of chemical weapons. It ended when Mr Miliband  made clear that Labour would vote against early military action even on the chemical weapons matter.

             Once Labour’s support for action was removed when Mr Miliband changed his mind, the government drafted a motion which made it clear a further vote would be needed before any UK military involvement could be undertaken. As the debate and soundings continued yesterday, it became obvious that an attempt next week to push for such a vote after the UN Inspectors have reported was likely to lead to a substantial defeat. As it turned out the government did not even have a majority for its general motion condemning the use of chemical weapons, proposing further diplomatic efforts at the UN  and leaving open other options.

             I will post my speech in the Commons later today.

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44 Comments

  1. colliemum
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve watched the debate from start to vote, and agree with those MPs who said that this was a great hour for Parliament. It was very interesting to hear how many MPs spoke about the scepticism of their constituents. It was also interesting to hear how some MPs were very outspoken indeed about their intention to vote no to both amendment and motion.

    I’ll pick up two points made by Dr Wollaston MP, namely that the Arab League, who does want some intervention, does now not want unilateral Western intervention – something which should really stop us in the rush to lob missiles.
    Her other point was to question why the Arab League does not in fact interfere themselves, seeing that they have many modern weapons, thanks to our trade.
    The question “Why Us” was heard often …

    Thank you for your speech, and many thanks to all MPs. Yesterday was a day where I for one was proud of our Parliament and our parliamentary tradition. It was good to hear the PM say he will not make use of the Royal Prerogative to intervene militarily anyway.

    The big question now is – what comes next? Will Cameron have to resign now?

    Reply Mr Cameron could clearly not use executive powers when faced with potentially a much larger rebellion on any motion to authorise force. No, he will not resign.

  2. Richard1
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    The Govt should however press for criminal sanctions against Assad and his henchmen. They must be pursued for the rest of their lives until they are brought to justice. No state affording them aid or shelter should be allowed to forget it. Russia and Iran must be shown the benefits of cooperation on this and the disadvantages and opprobrium that will follow from support of these criminals.

    It is excellent that Parliament has sent a strong message that the UK will go to war only when we or our allies are attacked or threatened.

    Anyone thinking Miliband comes out of this well should reflect on how he blows with the wind. He would be a hopeless PM. May we be spared.

  3. Bazman
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Military action would probably not work but getting personally targeted would however as they are gangsters and think like gangsters. Getting whacked would be a real problem. The problem of not being able to go to London for shopping trips will already be causing problems for them and deliveries from the internet must be restricted at this moment. This needs to be escalated by personal threats against them and their families as this is what we are dealing with. Nowhere to hide and threats of missile attacks pinpointed by spies and elite forces. Shooting through the woman and child to save the hostages We are not hostage rescue but here to kill the terrorist is what Russians believe.Why do you think China and Russia support them so much? Strategy? Yes of personal wealth. Count on it.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks goodness for that. How can Cameron be so out of touch with the public and his MPs?

    “The government accepts the will of Parliament and the view of the British people”. Well at last, could they now do the same on Iraq, Afghanistan, the EU, over high tax rates, Hs2, the bloated state, expensive energy by religion, the enforced equality of outcome agenda and everything else that this daft government supports?

    Does Cameron finally “get that”?

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      No he will not because Cameron and the rest of the national security establishment are confirmed Atlanticists. To them it is still 1945 and they have Glenn Miller ringing in their ears. Even at my level down at the bottom of the navy’s food chain, it was rammed into me that we are at all times with the USA. They provide the brawn we provide brains. Check out the memoirs of retired intelligence officers to get it reconfirmed elsewhere too.

      Cameron was definitely marching to the American beat, as otherwise why recall Parliament so quickly before it was due to reconvene anyway? Did it have something to do with Obama wanting to get this out of the way before G20 next week? I love to be a fly on the wall with them and Putin on his home turf.

    • Bazman
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Expensive energy by religion? You have still to explain how we are going to continue with dirty fossil fuels with no alternatives. You are just Right Wing Chuntering again. RWC. As usual with no basis. Do you need this explaining as you do not understand?

  5. matthu
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    To have made the call to military action a “judgement call” – lacking as they did any convincing evidence of Assad’s culpability – must say something very significant about the lack of judgement of both leaders of the coalition government.

    I do not expect the electorate to forget this.

  6. Philip Ray
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    You voted with the government last night though didn’t you?

    Reply No I did not. Read my speech.

    • Philip Ray
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Ah, I see you abstained. Will read your speech now.

  7. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    I very much look forward to reading your speech!

  8. S MacDonald
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    This household quietly cheered at the results in the House yesterday. I will keep my fingers crossed that just maybe a sense of reality will seep through into the Foreign Office and Downing Street, and that insane posturing about the UK’s military capabilities and interests will at least reduce if not cease.

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I listened to the later debate and found most o the views sensible. I even emotionally sided with a lady labour MP ( apologies cannot remember her name) who proposed immediate military strikes, yet the hornets nest is too charged to go along with this.
    At 281 votes though, the decision not to militarily intervene with the blessing from the international community was not made easily.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      10.30 past my bed time 285

  10. Mike Powell
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Democracy is a fine thing but the politics that supports it is a pretty grubby business. Labour took a political advantage and did itself no harm in appearing to oppose the action that the majority of the country is very sceptical about. A small number of very principled Conservative MPs also joined the NO lobby, no doubt their majorities will go through the roof come the next General Election. I was hoping that your name would have been amongst them but no matter, regardless of that, the end result was fine.

  11. matthu
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I think it was Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP, on LBC last night who described how she had emailed 500 of her constituents to canvass their views on Syria.

    400 responded, which in itself is remarkable.

    But of those 400, only six were in favour of military action against Syria.

    That goes some long way to explaining how very much out of touch our political leaders are with the views of the electorate.

    And be thankful that this was a parliamentary decision – and not an EU decision. For how much longer, one wonders?

  12. Andyvan
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Didn’t notice your name on the list of rebels Mr Redwood. Does that mean you are in favour of bombing a sovereign country on the mere say so of the same people that started the Iraq war?

    Reply Read what I said to the Commons. I did not vote for the bland government motion and made very clear I would vote against any motion to authorise the use of force.

  13. Acorn
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Can I recommend to Mr Cameron, the following. Arrogance: A Formula for Leadership Failure Stanley B. Silverman The University of Akron. Which says,

    “Workplace arrogance can be a serious problem. Arrogant employees are poor performers who negatively impact social exchange in the workplace. They make little effort to engage in citizenship behaviors and discount feedback that would otherwise help improve their performance. Recent research has led to the development of the WARS, an easily administered and highly valid measure of workplace arrogance”.

    Syria is an Arab problem, not a western problem. It is tribal warfare little understood by westerners. Westerners amplify the problem by supplying bombs and bullets and the Zionist lobby orchestrates this “modern tragedy” from Washington and Westminster.

    Perhaps the UK will now realise that we are no longer a world power, our empire is no more. Our seat on the UN Security Council is no longer legitimate. We should emulate Portugal and slowly and quietly move to the back of the world stage.

    PS. What price EU repatriation of powers now?

  14. Javelin
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Let’s not forget your dream – that an EU foreign minister could have overruled the will of Parliament.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    This is a welcome outcome.

  16. M.A.N.
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Much as I appreciate the furore over Syria, no piece on carnival carneys weasel words? Maybe you think there will to much going over old ground, maybe you’re right as it doesn’t move the discussion on. But we are angry, very angry, hence why people post, the destruction of the savings culture and annuities is very important to us, we can only care so much about a foreign culture.

    Reply I will come back to Carney soon. Stopping military intervention has been the central priority this week, and it is much more topical.

  17. Cheshire Girl
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I listened to your speech John and was pleased to hear that you stood up for the views of the majority of the British people. I am irritated that the vote last night is being construed by some politicians as if we don’t care what is happening in Syria. I’m certain that most of us do care very much and wish we could be sure of stopping it. The thing is we can’t be sure that any action we might not take would be effective, and not make matters worse. Under these circumstances I think the result of the vote was the right one.

  18. lojolondon
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    John, I suspect Cameron doesn’t realise it but you could have saved him from a Blair-like blunder, rushing in before the evidence is presented :

    I know you don’w like to post unproven links, please feel free to delete but I would like you to view the evidence anyway –

    (cites postings implying the Assad regime is not the only unpleasant player in the ME ed)
    Not proof but certainly enough to create doubt… which I heard a Conservative Defence minister saying yesterday that “the regime has CW, the opposition have no access, there is no doubt at all’ – totally wrong.

  19. Barry Sheridan
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, as someone who sees both sides of this argument I feel both relief and sorrow at this decision. For once Parliament has done what it is there for, hence the relief, the sadness comes from the feeling that President Assad may yet conclude, with the support of Russia and China, that it is possible for him to cling to power through ever more ruthless use of such appallingly indiscriminate weaponry.

    For the ordinary of Syria, especially its small persecuted Christian minority, this implies a future that can only grow dimmer. Which makes me wonder, given that some effort to help these people is an honourable ideal, why government did not prepare a better case. Surely this was an obvious requirement given the exposed deceits of our involvement in Iraq.

  20. John Eustace
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Why did you abstain rather than voting against?

    Reply Because the day was won – the government was making it clear to us that there would not be the key vote next week to authorise military action whatever the result of last night’s vote, because they knew from us they would lose that by a big margin. The motion last night was bland and general, much watered down from the original plan.

    • Dan
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      …and?

      • uanime5
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        557 of the 650 MPs voted regarding this bill (272 for and 285 against), resulting in the bill being defeated by 13 votes. It the remaining 93 MPs had voted against this bill then it would have been defeated by 106 votes. So I suspect some Conservatives MPs abstained to prevent the defeat in the Commons being larger, which would have caused more problems for the Prime Minister.

        Reply Some abstained because it was a muddled and modest motion which did not authorise the use of force.

  21. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Cameron was the author of his own defeat, ably assisted by the belligerent Hague. They thought that they could rush this through Parliament, before the inspectors whose attendance they had demanded had even finished their work let alone reported. Hence, just four days before Parliament was due to return anyway, he recalled it intending to get his way. When they realised that Labour and some Conservatives would not support this they were were forced into producing a motion which they clearly had little enthusiasm for, other than to keep the door open for them to continue with their military adventures. Indeed, outside Parliament the media were being briefed in a continuing bellicose manner by the government. Cameron tried initially to rush this through Parliament and failed. He deserved to be defeated and he was.

  22. Cliff. Wokingham.
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Hello John,

    It appears you voted against the Labour motion and abstained in the main vote……I suppose that is better than voting for it! Thank you.

    I watched much of the debate yesterday and thought the level of debate, from both sides of the house, was very good……Parliament at it’s best in my opinion.

    Just out of interest, how many communications have you received regarding the Syria question? How many were in favour of a military strike and how many were opposed?

    Reply I had around 100, with just one in favour of military action.

  23. Anonymous
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Much of this interventionist fervor is buoyed up by the adolescent romanticism surrounding the ‘Arab spring’ I expect.

    Syria has a wicked regime and one that – like many – wishes great harm to the West. However repulsive they are these regimes are stable, keep the general population from killing each other and in relatively civilised conditions and for us it really is a case of better the Devils we know.

    There is also the small fact that we have no money left and our international credibility rating is in deficit owing to one Tony Blair.

  24. alan jutson
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Well it was close, but the Nation got the right result, thanks to MP’s who had the courage to vote against the Governments motion.

    The result I think in many ways came about from the lessons learned from the Tony Blair debacle.

    Perhaps now this Prime Minister will take some advice from people who are outside of his cosy little circle, and rather more close to public opinion and real Conservative values.

    Perhaps then we may have some correct action on Europe, the Referendum, immigration, green energy, a far more simplified tax system, and some real cuts in waste and Government spending.

    Some hope I know, but we must live in hope.

    Reply It wasn’t really close. The government conceded the need to have a further vote to give permission for military and then realised that there was a large majority against that. By the end they were telling us they would not bring another vote as they knew they had lost the main issue.

  25. Chris S
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Miliband’s actions over Syrian action were just further confirmation that he’s simply not up to the job of leader of the opposition, let alone PM.

    David Cameron’s failure to lead the House and even more important, his own PMs on this issue is a much more important milestone.

    We know that the long shadow of Iraq and the dodgy dossier hung over Parliament yesterday but I simply can’t imagine Blair, Thatcher or even John Major getting themselves in this position.

    Cameron had enough doubters amongst Conservative supporters before the issue of Syrian intervention arose. Now this dramatic failure of leadership he has exposed his fundamental weaknesses to everyone.

    The long term effects of yesterday and his abject failure to ensure that the boundary changes were implemented will be seen as the defining points of his administration.

    He comes out of both very badly.

  26. Acorn
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    JR, why did you not vote on the main motion yesterday? Did you abstain or pair with another MP?

    There are 304 Conservative MPs; 257 Labour; 55 LD and 34 others including the Speaker. 272 voted Yes, and 285 voted NO to the main Syria question. That leaves 93 MPs who did not vote, and I don’t think the Whips allow pairing on such an important question, they have to be in attendance. Is that correct JR?

    I mention this just in case there are any thoughts of bringing in compulsory voting for us plebs.

    Reply There was no pairing yesterday. I declined to vote for the government’s bland motion, and made clear I would vote against any motion to authorise force.

    • Chris S
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      In reply to your response, Mr Redwood :

      Given that there would be another vote before any action, do you not think that the only achievement of the Conservative members who failed to support the Government’s “bland motion”, has been to demonstrate that David Cameron is a weak Prime Minister unable to lead even his own party, let alone the house ?

      Could that have been your collective intention ?

      Reply No, our intention was to do the right thing on the issue and on the merits of the revised motion. The Conservative party was not seeking a proxy motion of confidence in the Prime Minister.

      • Chris S
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        Whatever the intention, I fear that you have very publicly demonstrated a lack of confidence in your own leader.

        • Linda Dubber
          Posted August 31, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          Chris S – you may find this interesting. I posted this in the wrong area yesterday – but here is my original post and Mr Redwood’s reply:
          Mr Redwood – please can you explain your reasons for abstaining in the first vote on intervention in Syria? Was it because you didn’t want to vote against your party? Because I certainly do not believe that it was representative of your constituents’ views on the subject. The majority of people would not have said “I can’t be bothered either way on this subject” – I have to say I am very disappointed that, if you thought the majority of your constituents were against it, you didn’t just vote against it. For the record, I think the first vote should have gone through, however, I am fully aware that the second vote may not have done. Meanwhile, innocent Syrian children are being murdered and we’ve, effectively, as a country told them we won’t help them.

          Reply I have set out my views here and my reason for abstaining on the bland government motion. I made clear I would vote against a motion authorising the use of force. There will now not need to be one of those as the PM has accepted our view that there should be no UK military involvement. You might have written in to thank me for helping ensure a happy outcome, as I did by joining those who opposed arming the rebels, who called for Parliament to meet and who made clear we would not vote for the use of force.

          • Linda Dubber
            Posted August 31, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

            I would add, that I have voted Conservative all my voting life (since 1979) and have previously been a local Tory Parish Councillor. To say I was disappointed in a somewhat pompous response re I should be “thanking him for a happy outcome” is an understatement.

  27. Douglas Carter
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, a question if I may, and whilst the nature of it might seem a wee bit presumptuous, I ask for very legitimate reasons of curiosity, and not points-scoring.

    In a reply above, you indicate that of the communications you were in possession of prior to yesterday’s Commons session, that only one in one hundred messages indicated support for military action against Syria – at least that’s the interpretation I give to that reply.

    I understand the strictures of ‘representation’ that you award your constituents (and I do not number among them). However, notwithstanding your own personal view and principles, if you were confident on a wholly different matter that – say – nearly ninety-eight percent of your constituents were in opposition to a matter your parent Government might demand you to endorse with your voting support, would you feel under an obligation to defer to the settled opinion of your local voters? As I say, this question could be seen as a tiny bit impertinent. Such is not my intention.

    Reply I have written about how I do my job at greater length before on this site. One of the important things I take into account is the opinion of my constituents. On this issue and occasion I judged the public by a large majority were against military intervention and told the government and Commons that. Receiving 100 emails from an electorate of 75,000 might not always be an accurate guide to the balance of opinion. As a representative not a delegate, it is also my job to use my own judgement on the issue as well as the balance of opinion.

  28. Bert Young
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I watched the first hour and a half of the debate yesterday and came to the conclusion that the vote taken on the motion entirely depended on whether or not the House would be persuaded on the “judgement” Cameron had made . Having said many times before that he was not advised by people around him who would offer alternative views , I was confident MPs would not trust his “judgement” . The outcome delivered a fatal blow and his leadership is now a big question mark . He should resign . The USA has never had a credible foreign policy for the Middle East and it was most foolish to go along with a spontaneous response to its request for support . As Milliband said “It was reckless” . The tribal warfare in this region cannot be settled by outside Western intervention ; it is questionable whether it can ever be settled . People like Assad are able to maintain a stability through an “iron fist”approach ; the style of this sort of leadership is completely out of keeping with our style of democracy , but , if it can keep the opposing factions apart , leave it alone and let time take its course .Look at Saudi and Kuwait and ask whether the leadership style works and whether people can be relatively happy there .

  29. Gary
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    On reflection, yesterday was indeed a fantastic day. Just as I had given up hope that we live in a democracy. I may be wrong, but I sense a great relief from Cameron and that could be even more cause for celebration. I think there are higher powers applying huge pressure to these leaders and I think Cameron took refuge in democracy where others in the past have not. I hope I am correct.

  30. Francis Lankester
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    We have betrayed people fighting for their freedom while we sit quietly at home. We have emboldened Assad & Iran. This actually makes ultimate war with Iran more likely, not less.

  31. Kenneth
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Today the BBC and others have caricatured the PM as ‘weakened’ and humiliated.

    I think this cheap political point-scoring by the BBC was juvenile in the face of what was being discussed.

    In fact, I think Mr Cameron should be given some credit for quickly and explicitly accepting the will of the House of Commons and the country.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      The BBC have been setting the agenda as usual.

    • Bazman
      Posted August 31, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      SKY and C4 and ITV did too, so are they setting an agenda and need to be censored in some way RWC’s. We know who is behind your childish anti BBC site Ken hardly a man you would trust with any news channel is he? What will you do about the internet? Censor that too?

  32. Ian Pennell
    Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood

    It is clear to me that the Conservative Party are in the worst of both worlds politically: As the largest party in the Government the Conservatives will be held to account for the decisions made by the Government- and the consequences of such decisions. Yet the Tories do not have an overall majority in the House of Commons (nor in the House of Lords) to push through policies they believe are right for the country. Other Parties can vote down major policies (like whether or not to go to war)- or even get policies that the Tories are opposed to pushed through Parliament (i.e Leveson). If deliterious consequences arise because of the Tories’ failure to get bills passed they would still get the blame for it because they are in the Government.

    This is one reason why there is a limit to what either David Cameron (or even the Conservative Party generally) can do to prevent defeat at the next General Election. But they can do something to ensure that the subsequent General Election brings victory:-

    David Cameron should ditch the Lib Dems, propose some real Conservative policies and try to get these through. When all these are voted down and it is clear he cannot form a government he should go to the Queen and get Parliament dissolved- being clear that the Left is to blame for bringing down the Government and generally preventing the smooth running of the country. Given the current mood of the Voters it is still likely that Ed Miliband would either win outright or have to govern with the Lib Dems. Whilst in opposition, the Tories led by David Cameron (or his successor) should realise that “modernisation” has been disastrous for the Party and to propose tough but also popular Conservative policies for Britain’s long-term good- deep welfare cuts to fund business tax cuts and the abolition of the 40 and 45% tax rates, and to stop Britain going bust; promising to get Britain out of the EU then offering a referendum on the Death Penalty for murderers and paedophile-rapists; promising to drive down energy and utility costs for homes and businesses. Whilst Ed Miliband’s Union-controlled government messes up the economy (and refuses to give voters a referendum on the EU) such policies would resonate strongly with the voters- who would deliver a Conservative Majorityat the 2018 or 2019 Election.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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