LibLink: Lorely Burt on Syria and the vote

Writing in today’s Solihull Observer, Lorely Burt, Lib Dem MP for Solihull explains why she abstained in last week’s vote.

Personally I could not support the government’s position. I will not support any more foreign war adventures: no more putting British lives at risk without broad international support and a direct threat to this country or our people.

We have all been sickened by the pictures of rows of dead Syrian children, and people dying so painfully from gas poisoning. But even so, getting involved in another war is an unpalatable option for most of us.

But, Lorely argues:

Once we had committed ourselves to action, would we have been sucked into further violence?

The Middle East is deeply unstable. If we weigh in without taking the international community with us, and without clear international legal justification, our enemies would surely exploit the situation to attack our reputation and try to justify more of their murderous acts.

And on the crucial vote:

For these reasons, I spoke out in Parliament against military intervention without a broad international coalition and a widely accepted legal justification. And I took the difficult decision not to vote for my government’s motion.

Abstaining is a way to say that you still support the government, but not that particular policy. I abstained on the government motion and voted against Labour’s amendment, which was almost identical and could still have paved the way for military action.

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9 Comments

  • As I have written elsewhere on this site, Lorely did not abstain from this vote. She, along with 14 other LD MP’s, did not vote. Only Paul Burstow went through the process needed to abstain (voting both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’). Another PR own goal for us as, from a constituent perspective, the official voting record leads the electorate to belive that their MP was absent.

    When I was a teenager my mum instilled in me the importance of voting. At that time there were no Liberal candidates to vote for in our local elections, just Conservative and Labour. Every polling day my mum would go to the Polling Station and spoil her ballot paper because, in her view, women died so that she could vote and the least she could do was turn up and register her opinion, even if she didn’t want to vote for either candidate.

    I am truly astonished that, on such a major vote, our MP’s don’t understand the importance of doing the same.

  • Helen Dudden 5th Sep '13 - 7:37pm

    Was it a good idea to vote for something that you did not believe in, because you were forced too?

    I find politics a strange situation.

  • Richard Dean 5th Sep '13 - 7:40pm

    “adventures” ?

  • As one of Lorely’s constituents I appreciate that she has explained her position and has raised some important and thoughtful issues. Whilst I remain unsure about military action itself, it seems clear from the coverage of the G20 that our diplomatic efforts with Putin have been greatly weakened by Parliament’s vote. It is akin to Geoffery Howe’s comments about Thatcher, we have sent the government off to face Putin but we ourselves have broken their bat before they even reach the crease. Unlike Thatcher though, I believe LD MPs acted with the best of intentions.

    That said, Lorely has always been and remains an exceptional constituency MP.

  • Here’s the problem: it is, all things considered, *probable* that the chemicals found originated from Assad’s side. But *probability* is not enough. Wars cannot be entered into based on probabilities.
    Supposedly there is more evidence. It may be enough to convince Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg. It may be enough to convince Mr Obama. But they are not the people that need to be convinced — it is us ordinary people and the rest of the world.
    So why not go ahead and produce the evidence, openly and for all to see? If there is such evidence, then it should be presented so clearly enough that the Russians and the Chinese and other nations cannot credibly deny it. But if the evidence is *not* that clear, if there is any room for doubt about the source or nature or responsibility for these attacks, then it is not right to go ahead and “take action” just because of a probability.

  • Ed Shepherd 6th Sep '13 - 8:45am

    Well done, Lorely Burt. She is a good constituency MP and I am now impressed by her grasp of the risks of why it was so dangerous to rush to attack Syria. I have no doubt that had the government got it’s own way last week, our military would already be involved in escalating attacks on the Syrian government and that government’s supporters. We would have become embroiled on one side of a civil war; the side of the Saudi Arabia and some of it’s neighbours.

  • Surely anyone who was really anti military intervention would have voted against both the government motion and Labour’s amendment.

    We’ve heard Clegg accusing Labour of polical point scoring this week. Coalition sour grapes also accuse Labour of
    ‘playing politics’.

    It does seem as if Coalition MPs like Ms Burt, and my own Lib Dem MP who voted in the same way as she did, were also
    playing politics though, doesn’t it ?

  • @ Ed

    “I have no doubt that had the government got it’s own way last week, our military would already be involved in escalating attacks on the Syrian government and that government’s supporters.”

    Only if Parliament had voted for it in a second vote.

  • Shirley Walford 8th Sep '13 - 9:25am

    Dear Lorely,
    I am so grateful you didn’t support it. Apart from all the other reasons I could say, bombing Damascus means killing and injuring thousands of people including women and children, or leaving them homeless. All most of them want to do is get on with their lives in peace. How many of them have actually had any say in the actions of their government? Did we have any say when Tony Blair invaded Iraq? Most people in Britain, France and North America don’t want military action. War is never a good answer to problems and in the course of aggressive action thousands or millions of innocent people suffer. Politicians should stop thinking that war is always the way forward. They’re elected to listen to their citizens and talk, discuss, resolve.

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