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Syria: Labour's Amendment (490 MPs were willing to consider military action potentially)

It is worth looking at Labour's Amendment
expresses its revulsion at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Ghutah, Syria on 21 August 2013; believes that this was a moral outrage; recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons; makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a grave breach of international law; agrees with the UN Secretary General that the UN weapons inspectors must be able to report to the UN Security Council and that the Security Council must live up to its responsibilities to protect civilians; supports steps to provide humanitarian protection to the people of Syria but will only support military action involving UK forces if and when the following conditions have been met that:

(a) the UN weapons inspectors, upon the conclusion of their mission in the Eastern Ghutah, are given the necessary opportunity to make a report to the Security Council on the evidence and their findings, and confirmation by them that chemical weapons have been used in Syria;

(b) compelling evidence is produced that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of these weapons;

(c) the UN Security Council has considered and voted on this matter in the light of the reports of the weapons inspectors and the evidence submitted;

(d) there is a clear legal basis in international law for taking collective military action to protect the Syrian people on humanitarian grounds;

(e) such action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region, and must therefore be legal, proportionate, time-limited and have precise and achievable objectives designed to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria; and

(f) the Prime Minister reports further to the House on the achievement of these conditions so that the House can vote on UK participation in such action, and that any such vote should relate solely to efforts to deter the use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any wider action in Syria.’.
There is not actually that much difference between Labour's amendment and the government motion. Both consider that there are circumstances in which military action may ensue.
Looking at the Two divisions on public whip

In favour   69       70

Alliance     0        0   
Con          0      239 (+2 tell)
DUP          4        0
Green        0        0
Ind          0        0
Lab        207 (+2)   0
LDem         0       31
PC           3        0
SDLP         0        0
SNP          6        0 
Total:     220 (+2) 270 (+2)
Hence a total of 490 MPs (+4 tellers) voted for a motion that did not rule out military action. Some MPs voted against both motions. Caroline Lucas oddly abstained on the Labour amendment, but voted against the Government Motion. I would have thought she would have voted against military action completely. Naomi Long and Sylvia Hermon, however, voted against both. Oddly enough only 6 Labour MPs voted entirely against the possibility of military action whilst 11 Lib Dems did and 30 Conservatives. (on the assumption that those who voted against the government motion also voted against Labour's amendment). I have not done the detailed work by MP, but would assume that the totals I have used from the summaries imply the details.

The media narrative, however, is different.


Zain said…
Oh I see you have missed the point John and crucially failed to see the material difference between the Government motion and the amendment. This may explain how you voted yesterday.
The motion states axiomatically that Assad has used chemical weapons against his people on 21st August. The amendment states that compelling evidence must be presented that this has occurred and delegates this job to the UN Inspectors. Lets put it this way: if Tony Blair had prefaced his Iraq war motion with such a condition the Iraq War (British involvement at any rate)would not have occurred as Hans Blix did not find any WMD. So you cannot categorise 490 MPs as bellicose.
You might say what if the Inspectors do find the compelling evidence. The answer is that is not the point: Washington (and indeed London before the vote) wants to go ahead and launch the strike and making it conditional on the Inspectors messes up the timetable at best or at worst removes their pretext if the Inspectors report negative.
John Hemming said…
The argument, whatever the details, however, is about process.

My view remains that we should go to the international bodies.

In any event it is quite clear that a majority of MPs are not bellicose per se, but have not ruled out the use of force.