Five of the best speeches so far
The opening of the debate may have been uninspiring (see 1.20pm) but in the last two hours or more it has picked up because the backbench contributions have generally been impressive. If you are looking for the highlights, here are five of the best.
1) Tim Farron. In a debate that has involved a lot of dry discussion about strategy and the composition of opposition forces in Syria, Farron’s speech stood out because it was unashamedly emotional and passionate.
2) Margaret Beckett. Beckett’s speech was good for opposite reasons; while Farron appealed to the heart, she calmly and rationally challenged the arguments against air strikes, speaking with the authority her long experience gives her.
3) Sir Gerald Kaufman. Another Labour veteran, Kaufman struck a note of moral certainty as he explained why he was voting against the government.
4) Alan Johnson. Speaking as a former home secretary, Johnson was straightforward and unpretentious as he set out his reasons for voting with the government. His speech also include a very sharp dig at Labour’s anti-war crowd.
5) John Baron. The Tory MP who has tabled the cross-party anti-government amendment explained his case calmly, rationally and intelligently.
Former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond responded to Streeter by saying that while we can’t do nothing about Isis, that is not an argument for doing anything.
He said the UK makes up 10% of the current flights in Iraq and will not make any conceivable difference in Syria, where there are “too many planes already chasing too many targets”. He said we spent 13 times as much bombing Libya as was spent on reconstruction.
He called on the government too instead focus on “interrupting and dislocating the internet strategy which they pursue”.
For one of our fast, smart bombs, we could have a whole squadron of people taking down [Isis’s] websites and stopping the communication and contaminating the minds of young people across Europe and the world. And here I very much agree with the leader of the Labour party about the interruption of the financial resources without which this evil cult could not function… Finally I would say this: we are being asked to intervene in a bloody civil war of huge complexity, we are being asked to do it without an exit strategy and no reasonable means of saying we are going to make a difference. We should not give the prime minister that permission.
If we are to tackle the ideology, if we are to tackle these people, then we cannot do it alone through airstrikes … I have had a fairly strong position for a long time that we should support action against Daesh. I today am in a quandary from all the people that have spoken to me – my constituents, some of the people who have spoken to me in this place – and I find myself in a very different place because some of the things that have been said by the prime minister.
Mahmood says that the only way to deal with Isis is by having troops on the ground.
“The spectre of the Iraq war in 2003 hangs over this House and hangs over the whole debate that we’re having in this country,” said the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. The late Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy had called for intervention in Bosnia and opposed the “counter-productive and illegal” Iraq war – both principled stances, Farron said. “I am proud of Charles on both counts.”
Farron said his instincts are to be anti-war and anti-conflict and that backing airstrikes is the toughest decision he has had to make as an MP. He put five principles to the prime minister, he said, adding: “My sense is that, on balance, any reasonable person would judge them to be broadly met.”
Farron said that though he will vote with the government, he will not give them his unconditional support, adding that there are “huge questions about the financing of Daesh” and that the UK should take more refugees.
He says his stance was influenced by his experience of visiting the the refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos. He talks about seeing a seven-year-old boy arriving with his family in a dinghy and saying to his father: “Daddy, are Isil here?”
Yvette Cooper said she will argue for certain changes to the government’s approach but that she will be voting for airstrikes. Cooper said she didn’t think she could argue for coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to be stopped and that our French allies have asked for our help and we cannot say no.
The MP for Pontefract and Castleford said the prime minister had not made the most effective case, so she understood why many remain unconvinced, and that she sought assurances on a number of points – only some of which she had received.