By Theo Russell
PEACE campaigners and MPs met on 4th September at the House of Commons to discuss the historic defeat in Parliament of plans to join air strikes on Syria and to discuss the way forward for peace.
Diane Abbott said: “The long shadow of the Iraq war has hung over the debate. For the first time Parliament was able to vote in time to prevent military action and I hope that will set a precedent.
“This was an important day for Parliament but also an important day for those of us who have campaigned for so long.” She added: “Hundreds of people are still alive today who wouldn’t be alive if Syria had been bombed.”
Abbott also said that Ed Miliband had been subjected to “major pressure inside the Shadow Cabinet from people of the Blair type,” and that “he did well to stand up to that pressure”.
She called for votes at the United Nations to be decided by the General Assembly rather than by the Security Council.
Sarah Wollastone, one of 61 Tory backbenchers to rebel or abstain on 29th August told the meeting: “The message from Parliament is very clear – we reject the notion that humanitarian aid is best delivered at the end of a cruise missile.
“Any action in Syria should come from an Arab nation. We are told that no Arab nation is capable of delivering assistance – I’m sorry, but what have we been doing all these years selling arms to these people?”
Lindsay German from Stop the War said: The vote created a political crisis around the world, and as a result Obama has been forced to go to Congress make a case, although he’s already said he’ll carry on with strikes anyway.” She added: “The Government’s defeat would not have happened without an anti-war movement.”
But she also warned against the “chorus of voices” claiming the vote was a “tragedy” for Britain and calling for another vote, including Paddy Ashdown, Boris Johnson and Henry Kissinger. Fortunately for the peace movement, Cameron cannot risk another vote, which could force him to resign if it falls again.
“The vast majority of people in Britain support our position, but the establishment, the media and the Government are out of touch with ordinary people,” German said.
Both Diane Abbott and fellow Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn called for a War Powers Act to prevent the use of the Royal Prerogative to take Britain to war.
Senior Labour backbencher Peter Hain again called for “President Assad and other concerned parties, including Iran, to be included in any negotiations on resolving the conflict in Syria,” saying it was “impractical and unrealistic” for them to be left out.
Commenting on France’s support for strikes on Syria, Jeremy Corbyn MP recalled that the Free French forces led by Charles de Gaulle had fought against the Syrian independence movement in the midst of the Second World War.
He added that Britain is spending £35 billion every year on “defence” when there is “no money for housing or libraries, and more and more people sleeping on our streets”.