Alison McGovern MP

Wirral South

My statement following the debate about Syria

Yesterday I had to make an impossible choice about whether to extend RAF airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq across the border into Syria, or not to support the Governments motion, and therefore maintaining the status quo keeping current anti-Daesh action just to Iraq.

As I explained in the House of Commons, the government’s approach to the crisis in Syria has been far from perfect. You can watch the contribution I made here:

As I said, I am angry with ministers because they have turned away from the world when they could have demonstrated to the world what it means to be British. 

I believe they have done not nearly enough to offer aid and assistance to the humanitarian disaster which begun in Syria and is engulfing Europe.  Taking 20,000 refugees by 2020 is not enough. It is much too slow compared to what are our neighbours are doing.

I also believe that if we are to defeat Daesh we must show real commitment to tacking the root causes of radicalisation and extremism.

The biggest recruiting argent for extremism is want. Whether in the back streets of Britain where racism and disadvantage still compound with poor education to create hopelessness, or in the cities of Africa and the Middle East where young people find that powerful people forget them far too quickly, it is this pervasive want that is fertile ground for the blame and resentment that extremists cultivate. We must not turn our backs on the people of Syria. Rather we should offer them refuge now, and our backing tomorrow.

It is clear that the people of Syria need more than our military assistance. They need proper hospitals with trained doctors, proper schools with brilliant teachers and proper courts with impartial judges. 

Most of all the people of Syria need peace and that is why I will be holding the Prime Minister to account on the progress he is making in the Vienna peace talks and ensuring that the UK is fully committed to the reconstruction of Syria when the conflict is ended.

The choice I had to make today was about a tactic in a much larger struggle. There is no easy option or risk-free course of action. Extending the strikes risks civilian casualties, so too does inaction.

I do not believe that these strikes alone will defeat Daesh, but on balance I believe that they may make a small positive contribution. It is on that basis that I decided to support the motion. This support is however conditional on the government honouring the promises they have made regarding peace talks, reconstruction and refugees. 

If necessary I will pursue backbench motions if their plan does not work and I made that clear to the Prime Minister in person in the House of Commons. 

Many constituents wrote to me against the principle of using military air strikes at all. However, in the end, this is not a view I share. My agreement with UK armed forces taking action depends on (amongst other important principles) whether I believe there is reasonable chance of success against stated aims. For this reason we withheld support from the Government when they previously proposed action against the Assad regime. But we backed them in taking action against Daesh in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. This action effectively continues that approach given that Daesh in Iraq are being maintained and supplied by their base in Syria.

There is also a clear request for this approach from the UN, a body that I believe must be supported and respected. And our support has been specifically requested by the French and USA Presidents. 

I agreed with Hilary Benn, Shadow Foreign Secretary, in his speech yesterday. You can watch his contribution here:

I respect that there are many different views on this issue. I went into the debate undecided, determined to listen to the arguments before deciding how I would vote. My decision is not taken lightly nor can I claim to be totally certain in my vote. But I owe you, and the people of South Wirral my best judgement on this complex decision and that is what I have given today.

I appreciate that you may not agree with my decision, but hope that you now understand the reasons behind it. I am happy to call round to see you to discuss this if you would like me to. Please just let me know on 645 6590.



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commented 2015-12-03 16:36:06 +0000
Hello Alison (copying here as your email server appears to be down)

I was considering penning a note to you a few days ago, on the run up to ‘the vote’ last night, but like most people who aren’t necessarily politically driven – I prioritised other things…
However, after seeing your name on the ‘Yes’ vote list earlier today. I feel the need to re-visit my original enquiry.

I was intrigued, that in the wake of your party leader asking for, (what I personally thought was a quite reasonable request) a ‘structured plan’ for justifying military engagement – there was an onslaught of media coverage, identifying party members who were looking to rebel against this ‘stance’.
Now, I have no issue whatsoever with MP’s voting freely, on this type of debate. However, I saw nothing to indicate that these members of parliament were actually representing the views of their constituents – in fact, many appeared as if they were simply expressing their ‘Personal’ views on the situation !!!

This really concerned me, especially on something as important as this topic, and I was hoping that you could educate me on the process involved for defining your position, in voting procedures in general. This might be taking you back to ‘Politics for Beginners’, but I didn’t see any literature from yourself (or other candidates) on the run up to your successful campaign, which indicated a viewpoint on the ‘Fight against Fundamentalists’. So I naturally thought, that when topics of this nature arose (i.e./ that fell outside your election campaign material) – you would gauge opinion across your constituency BEFORE forming a voting position…
You, may well have attempted to do this – but my family members and friends have not been approached for such a ‘poll’, so as you can imagine, I’m finding it difficult to understand the structure behind you representing ME on this…

I can’t condone in any way, the unfortunate incidents that have happened overnight, involving the Stella Creasy activities and the social media slurs, but if there isn’t a ‘clear and accountable’ process in place, that highlights the reasoning our ‘elected members’ have applied, to explain their actions – then you are going to court intense criticism on topics of such an emotive nature.

I must stress that I am neither for, nor against the action at this moment in time, and I do believe that the ‘threat’ posed to civilised democracy’s (of all faiths) is real. However like Mr Corbyn indicated, I would have liked to have seen more of a ‘structure plan’ in place , rather than rallying support for airstrikes on the back of the emotion surrounding Paris. I think that was the least that could have been done, given the recent history of us making ill-advised military decisions, without knowing the full consequences attached to them.

I’m sure you will have a lot of similar correspondence to work through over the coming days, but please help me understand this representation model, when you get a moment – because it will enable me to better position my voting activity in the future..

Many thanks
John Cotton

PS/ after receiving a ‘bounce back’ from your server trying to send this, I’ve just witnessed your online statement. Well versed, and the humanitarian view is credible – but intimates ‘your view’ on several occasions. No matter how well intentioned, I sincerely hope your vote was NOT based on your beliefs – you cannot vote on such an important matter without a mandate from your constituents.

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