Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

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Why I voted against military action in Syria - December 2015

I planned to highlight the negative impact Osborne’s Autumn Statement will have on Newham in this column.

Then the Commons decided to engage in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. It is absolutely true. Decisions on war and peace are the gravest that an MP ever makes. I’d like to explain why I voted against the government’s proposal.

I am not a pacifist and I abhor the repulsive violence of ISIS. In the territory ISIS controls, gay men have been thrown off rooftops, women sold into sexual slavery and many Syrians have been butchered and buried in mass graves. ISIS is spreading its hateful violence beyond Iraq and Syria, attacking innocent civilians in France, Beirut, Tunisia and elsewhere.

The International community must bind together to tackle this evil.

We can only defeat ISIS by acting intelligently. I’m not convinced Cameron proposed a coherent strategy. ISIS forces are not out in the open; they cannot be beaten by airstrikes alone. Ground forces will be required.

The government say there are 70,000 moderate forces in Syria, but they are divided among 100 to 120 different groups, each with its own agenda. The Free Syrian Army, moreover, was formed to combat Assad, not ISIS. There is no guarantee that, without proper negotiations to form a lasting coalition of moderate forces, there will be anyone but other violent extremists to occupy territory vacated by ISIS.

We must find a political resolution to the problems in Syria and a plan to end the Syrian Civil War which combines and unites moderate forces against ISIS. Furthermore, we must stop the flow of money ISIS receives and take effective international action to enforce sanctions on banks and countries found to be funding them.

There were powerful speeches on both sides of the debate and the ability to disagree respectfully is a strength of our democracy a democracy that ISIS holds in contempt. Not everybody will agree with my decision, but I really appreciated messages from constituents encouraging me to vote with my conscience. I promise that is what I did and I shall continue to do so.

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