December 9 2013 Latest news:
by Stephen Moore
Friday, August 30, 2013
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone has defended her decision to back the government’s motion to endorse military action against Syria “if necessary” to prevent further use of chemical weapons against it own people.
"Let me make it clear that, in that second vote, I would have voted against military action unless it was supported by the UN – and indeed resigned from the front bench if necessary."
Coalition minister Ms Featherstone backed prime minister David Cameron’s motion in the House of Commons last night, which called for a “strong humanitarian response” to the atrocities that could include military action. The vote divided Haringey’s MPs as David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, opposed the motion.
While UN inspectors continue to gather evidence in Damascus, Mr Cameron blamed the Assad regime for “one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century, which has slaughtered innocent men, women and children in Syria”.
His motion was narrowly defeated by 285 votes to 272, as was an amendment tabled by the Labour party.
Last night Keith Flett, chairman of Haringey TUC trade union, criticised Ms Featherstone for not taking “a principled stand” on the issue.
He said she had a good record of opposing the Iraq War, pointing out that many believe she won her seat in 2005 because her predecessor, Labour MP Barbara Roche, had supported the war with Iraq.
Mr Flett said: “I have marched with Lynne Featherstone against war so I was disappointed to see her vote on Thursday. Of course her ministerial role made her position difficult, but Labour shadow ministers with a record of anti-war activity like Diane Abbott made it clear they would resign rather than back war. Sometimes taking a principled stand is important.”
Ms Featherstone, who had asked constituents on her mailing list for their views ahead of the vote last night, said in an email to them this morning: “The vast majority [of constituents] were against any direct action on Syria – many of which were against direct action without a UN resolution – a view with which I totally agree.”
She continued: “I supported the government motion because it proposed waiting for the UN weapons inspectors to finish their work and for the United Nations Security Council to consider their findings.
“The motion also proposed ‘that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council resolution backing military action before any such action is taken’.
“Most crucially the motion gave an absolute commitment that ‘before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place’. That vote would have happened next week, after the weapons inspectors had reported back.
“Because people have asked my position, let me make it clear that, in that second vote, I would have voted against military action unless it was supported by the UN – and indeed resigned from the front bench if necessary. After the government defeat last night, I don’t believe there will be a second vote – but my position remains the same.”
Ms Featherstone, a junior minister for international development, added: “I am an internationalist and the use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We must use the international bodies that uphold international law – or else we have nothing.
“Furthermore, I am not persuaded that the sort of military intervention proposed – that of surgical strikes – would have made things better rather than worse.
“I very much hope now that the international community will strive to find a diplomatic route with urgent and redoubled efforts. Assad and other such people should not take the vote last night as a green light on atrocities.
“My focus now will be on ensuring vital humanitarian aid reaches those in Syria, and those fleeing the country.”
Tottenham MP David Lammy told the Journal this afternoon: “The instinct to intervene is understandable but it must be accompanied by unimpeachable legitimacy in the present and a water-tight vision for the future.
“Nothing has been said so far that has convinced me that this government or our allies have fully achieved either.
“Without these I fear that any military intervention can only make matters worse. I fear that it will drag us into a conflict whose intensity we can only magnify, searching for a conclusion we haven’t defined and destabilising a region that has already been ripped apart by decades of violence, hatred and mistrust.
“I have enormous respect for those that call for military intervention - it is undoubtedly an honourable cause borne in principled motives. But there can be no comfort in doing the wrong thing even if it is for the right reasons.”