EXCLUSIVE: Alastair Campbell says world cannot ‘stand by and do nothing’ over Syria
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Former Labour press chief Alastair Campbell has stressed his belief that world leaders cannot “just stand by and do nothing” regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
In an exclusive interview with the Ham&High at his Gospel Oak home yesterday, the ex-Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street claimed he empathises with Western decision-makers after experiencing the process first hand under Tony Blair.
Mr Campbell, who was a spin doctor for the then prime minister when the Iraq War began in 2003, said: “What we call the international community cannot just say ‘alright, go on and do it again’ having said there is a red line [in the use of toxic gases].”
He reiterated that the ongoing Syrian Civil War was an “absolute humanitarian catastrophe” long before the apparent deployment of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime last Wednesday.
“He has done a lot of bad things over quite a period of time,” said Mr Campbell, 56. “The international community is trying to do things but that is proving very, very difficult.”
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Speaking before the House of Commons rejected a government motion for possible military action in Syria, the public relations expert said he had not spoken to Labour leader Ed Miliband about the crisis.
Whilst asserting that the opposition had made their position “very clear” on the issue, he called on the public to recognise the challenges all politicians face in such circumstances.
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He said: “David Cameron doesn’t want to be whacking missiles onto Syria.
“No prime minister or president wants to be sending citizens off to war, but sometimes they have to make these really tough decisions.
“On one hand, people will rightly say [to Western politicians] that ‘this is happening in our world and you are standing by doing nothing’ and that ‘there are millions of refugees pouring over the Syrian border and you have allowed this to happen’.
“Then, on the other hand, they are saying that they don’t want any military involvement from any of our forces, and [world leaders] have to make a decision.
“I do think that the public, whichever side of the argument they are on, should be a little bit more understanding of the thinking and the motivations of the people who are making the decisions.”
Speaking after last night’s House of Commons vote, he called on the government to explore other methods to tackle the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
He said: “I think I was as surprised as anyone by the vote because it seems to be saying that there are no circumstances in which Parliament might support military action.
“It is clearly a defeat for David Cameron but, with military action now ruled out, I hope he continues to bring forward policies for Britain to be invoked in other ways in facing the world up to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria.”
Meanwhile Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Glenda Jackson was one of 285 MPs who voted against intervention in Syria in an emergency debate yesterday.
Ms Jackson asked: “Where is the evidence that an action by the international community would cease the use of chemical weapons within Syria, a country where the combatants have accepted 100,000 dead, millions of refugees and the continuing action that is totally destroying that country?”