“THIS international operation is about protecting our people too and protecting the streets of Britain should not be a task that we are prepared to entirely sub-contract to other air forces of other countries.”
David Cameron’s blunt message to Parliament was unequivocal when he made the case for RAF fighter jets being re-deployed to Iraq on “a mission that will take not just months but years” if the ‘Islamic State’ – a psychopathic terrorist network whose slaughtering of innocent people belongs to the dark ages – is to be neutralised.
His argument was powerful, not least the need to dismantle the financial apparatus behind the monstrous atrocities being committed by IS. The threat to the these shores is a real one because of the recruitment of British-born jihadists and it would be negligent of this country to stand on the international sidelines when Iraq has made a formal request for military assistance to protect the tenuous democracy which UK troops fought for in 2003 and paid with their lives in 179 instances. Inaction would send out a dangerous message that this country was too weak, and too divided, to stand up for its best interests.
Yet, while the right of MPs to exercise their judgment on military intervention is a necessary safeguard, the convincing size of the Commons majority should not detract from the unease that was expressed by many MPs who expressed deep misgivings about the strategy being pursued.
Unlike 2003 when Mr Blair committed ground forces to overthrow Saddam Hussein without giving proper thought to the issue of nation-building, Britain’s involvement is modest – just a handful of Tornado jets will now join the international coalition taking action to prevent “a terrorist caliphate” gaining a foothold “on the shores of the Mediterranean”.
Some will argue, with justification, that this amounts to a “token gesture” and will not yield a lasting peace without the deployment of ‘boots of the ground’, a move that would, in all likelihood, be vetoed by Parliament.
Yet there are already growing fears of mission creep after the PM did express a surprising willingness to intervene in neighbouring Syria without Parliamentary approval if this was the price that had to be paid to prevent an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe. Labour, however, made clear that it would not endorse this under any circumstances.
Such divisions leave Mr Cameron in an invidious position. The Prime Minister knows that he will look weak if he does not respond robustly to the hostage crisis that has already claimed the life of Holderness-born aid worker David Haines amongst others. Yet it is abundantly clear that there is no desire whatsoever for Britain to become embroiled in another protracted conflict – despite the legal authority of this mission being absolute and a growing number of nations committing their Armed Forces with little hesitation. Like it or not, this is the consequence of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions – and this Government’s mishandling of the Syria crisis last year.
Moving forward, Mr Cameron did make a very profound point when he quoted Ban Ki-Moon and the United Nations secretary-general’s telling assertion that “missiles can kill terrorists, but it is good governance that will kill terrorism”. If only the second part of this equation was not so difficult to advance. For, until the UN becomes far more assertive, there’s every chance that the UK-led air strikes will come to represent the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end despite Mr Cameron’s very reasoned justifications for military intervention.
Farage turns up heat on Labour
nigel farage’S clarity of purpose yesterday provided a stark contrast to Ed Miliband’s memory lapses at the most underwhelming and uninspiring Labour Party conference for a generation.
Until now, it has always been assumed that the Tories will be the biggest losers if the United Kingdom Independence Party makes its presence felt in next year’s general election. This is no longer the case. Judging by the tone of the Ukip conference which is being held in Mr Miliband’s Doncaster back yard, Labour risks losing a significant chunk of its core support. Even Rotherham MP Sarah Champion conceded: “We are in difficulty and we are facing a real threat from Ukip.”
This threat is even greater after Mr Farage proposed to exempt blue collar workers on the minimum wage from income tax. To many, this one aspirational policy offered far more hope to the out-of-work and low waged – Labour’s key supporters – than Mr Miliband’s platitudes and failure to acknowledge the impact of immigration on the employment market. Is it any wonder, therefore, that so many find Mr Farage’s plain-speaking so plausible?