Today will be one of those alleged great show-piece events in the (British) House of Commons. The political correspondents at BBC, ITN and Sky and the sketch-writers in the major newspapers are already dusting off the clichés …including the old favourite “This was the House of Commons at its best”.
The British always seem to be at their best when they are discussing War….killing people…in reverent, hushed tones.
There wont be much shouting across the Floor. In ten hours of Debate, the Leaders of all parties will get to make a speech, advocating bombing in Syria or restraining from bombing Syria.
So far…so predictable. But the real interest will be in the contributions of senior backbenchers…often former ministers …who will bring a degree of expertise to it all. At least thats the theory….on the Tory side, Julian Lewis, chair of the Defence Committe and David Davis (a former soldiers and a maverick) and “Colonel” Bob Stewart (a blimpish figure) are sure to catch the Speakers eye. Margaret Beckett on the Labour benches (remember her reluctance to criticise Israel – few years ago? ) will lilely contribute.
All will be lostened to in hushed silence. Heads will nod with gravitas and there will be much (exaggerated) respect across the Chamber. For the British Commons loves the sound of its own pomposity…and the journalists will play their quasi-constitutional role of being grave and responsible.
Is Politics really at its best when it is non-partisan? Or is Politics less chaotic more principled when there is serious debate with a clear Opposition alternative?
So….bombing Syria. Or more precisely bombing ISIL in Syria. The complex alliances in that War are a farce.
Syria was once accepted as just another part of the Arab Spring. Uprisings to establish Democracy in Egypt produced a government that the “West” did not like so…the democratic government was overthrown and a more compliant government installed. In Libya, the tyranny of Gaddafi was overthrown and the country is now just a failed state in civil war.
Western intervention in Iraq failed miserably and produced sectarian bloodshed.
In Syria, the Assad regime was targetted as the next to fall but the “West” hesitated and some of the opposition groups…were demonstably worse than Assad. Notably ISIL.
Western populations are now told that Saudi Arabia who bankroll Islamist extremism and Turkey who buy ISIL oil are “good guys”.
The 9/11 bombers were Saudi. A NATO country kills Kurds who are fighting Assad and backs its ethnic Turks who are fighting Assad. The “ethnic Turks” in Syria are bombed by Russians who are supporting Assad and the Russians are needed to bomb ISIL. The Americans and French are bombing ISIL who are fighting Assad but are not targetting other anti-Assad forces….the so called 70,000 “good guys” who will fight both Assad and ISIL …well its all bollox. We all know this.
Meanwhile we also know that the threat to British cities (and other European cities) is from home-grown terrorists rather than ISIL infiltration into Europe.
Above all…there is a sense of deja vu that western populations (particuarly in Britain) were fed misinformation which led to the disaster in Iraq.
Of course, the lesson of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf is that he was not believed when he told the Truth. But .”.fool me once, shame on you….fool me twice, shame on me”.
I should of course emphasise that I am an Irish citizen and that implies a deep commitment to neutrality as well as a deep distrust of the motivations of post-imperialist players on the world stage.
It is an odd vote. Jeremy Corbyn has given his MPs a “free vote”, they can vote according to conscience. He will be the first member of the Labour Party to speak …against bombing. And his own would-be Foreign Secretary (Hillary Benn) will be the last Opposition speaker….for bombing.
It can only be described as a ridiculous situation.
Cameron maximises his own votes by “whipping” his Party and only a handful will vote against the Party. Cameron is not genuine in his weekend lobbying of Labour Blairites to support him. It is a cynical attempt to exploit Labour divisions and unworthy of all that “politics at its best” self-praising rhetoric that the British political establoshment loves so much.
And Cameron’s contradictory statement to his own backbenchers that opponents of bombing Syria would be going into the lobby with “terrorist sympathisers” is a disgraceful comment.
As Donal Lyons of SDLP tweeted last night.
This “terrorist sympathiser” comment has been made because Cameron now knows that he has the votes. He need not be reconcilatory to Labour MPs. He can play politics.
But this lie must be thrown back at him. Hopefully, Mark Durkan who holds the seat once occupoed by Nobel Peace laureate, John Hume will point out that SDLP needs no lectures from British governments.
So Cameron will win the votes but will hardly win the debate. Only a handful of Tories will defy him but he can count on the support of DUP and UUP, eager as always to display their British patriotism. Shamefully, he will get the support of the Liberal Democrats, reduced to a rump of just eight members after the heady days of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. They have learned nothing from being Tory “yes” men.
And Labour hopelessly divided. Only a minority of the Shadow Cabinet will back Jeremy Corbyn. With one eye on their hero, Tony B Liar and the other on overthrowing Corbyn and playing out their own Leadership aspirations, they will troop into the Government lobby.
In doing so, they do not seem to grasp that the real opposition to this war is being led by nationalists….SNP, SDLP and Plaid Cymru. The post-colonial conflicts such as Syria do not reflect the national ethos of Scotland. Can Labour ever win back Scotland? Can Labour ever form a “”UK” government again?
iS this another nail in the coffin of the “United Kingdom”?