Friday, 30 August 2013

Ed Miliband did not oppose military action in Syria. He just set conditions.

Ed Miliband did not oppose military action in Syria in the Commons last night. He just set conditions. Below is a copy of an email which, I assume, was sent to all Labour Party members shortly after 8.30 last night in which he sets out his position.

David Cameron made a gross error of political judgment by recalling parliament and asking MPs to agree to support military action in principle when both the factual evidence and the legal position were still so unclear. He should have waited. He should and could have built a political consensus. Instead he tried to rush the matter through to suit the US's timetable.

It is astonishing that the Coalition did not realise that they might well lose the vote. The result should not have come as a surprise.  After all, MPs can be expected to take public opinion seriously and furthermore some 80 Tory MPs signalled at the start of the summer that they wanted parliament recalled before any action in Syria, a clear indication that they might be opposed.

Parliament did its job last night. It held the government to account. Cameron failed to make his case.

Last night's vote is the first time in centuries that a British PM has been stopped from carrying out military action by parliament. It is also the first time for many decades - since Harold Wilson kept the UK out of Vietnam - that Britain has not fallen in with the military agenda of the US.

Short of a vote of confidence this is the most important possible vote that Cameron could lose. His loss of authority is immense. His leadership could even be threatened.

Below is Miliband's email.

Like everyone, I have been horrified by the pictures of men, women and children gasping for breath in Syria. In Parliament just now, I laid out my plan for how Britain should respond.
My position is clear: any action that our country supports must be legal, legitimate and effective. Our country must not make the same mistakes that happened ten years ago.
Our desperate desire to help stop this suffering in Syria must not lead us to rushed or wrong decisions.
You can see my full roadmap for action in Syria by watching my speech to Parliament:
Ed Miliband's road map for action in Syria
If we are to ask yet more of the most exceptional of our country's men and women -- those in our forces -- it must be on the basis of a decision that has complete moral authority.
Here are the five steps we must take before coming to such a decision:
1) We must let the UN weapons inspectors do their work and report to the UN Security Council;
2) There must be compelling and internationally-recognised evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks;
3) The UN Security Council should debate and vote on the weapons inspectors' findings and other evidence. This is the highest forum of the world's most important multilateral body and we must take it seriously;
4) There should be a clear legal basis in international law for taking military action to protect the Syrian people;
5) Any military action must be time limited, it must have precise and achievable objectives and it must have regard for the consequences of the future impact on the region.
I will use the full force of my position as leader of the Labour Party to ensure that Britain works fully with international institutions when we respond to outrages like those we have seen in Syria.
We must work together for a world in which there is peace and security for all people, and we must also acknowledge that stability will not and cannot be achieved by military means alone.
I will keep you updated on developments from Parliament,

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