How did Croydon’s three MPs vote in last night’s historic Parliamentary debate on military action in Syria? WALTER CRONXITE counted them all out, and counted them back in again
With one a Tory Government whip and one a Westminster new boy eager to impress his Bullingdon club bosses, it is no surprise that Conservative MPs Gavin Barwell, of Croydon Central, and Chris Philp, of Croydon South, last night voted with the Tory proposal to bomb the shit out of Syria, without any sustainable ground force to deal effectively with Daesh, no matter the “collateral damage”, and however our military action may radicalise those who suffer the impact of the West’s not-so-smart-bombs.
Both Barwell and Philp made an effort to inform their constituents immediately of how they had voted, though neither has managed to explain how bombing the enemies of President Assad last night (RAF fighter-bombers took off from British bases in Cyprus within an hour of the vote in the Commons) represents any sort of cogent military strategy or foreign policy, just two years after their party leader, David Cameron, wanted Britain to bomb Assad.
But what of Steve Reed OBE, the vice-chair of Progress and MP for Lambeth South? Now here is the perfect example of a curate’s egg of a careerist MP, wanting to have their bombing cake and yet still avoid deselection…
Reed had been asked what his voting intentions might be. Several times. As one voter in what is sometimes known as Croydon North said last night, “He refused to answer constituent questions on the issue earlier in the week.” And amid the confusion of the Westminster lobbies, it was at first unclear how Reed had voted.
Philp, still keen and eager, helpfully tweeted last night: “I walked through the lobby with Steve.”
At first, this was interpreted as Reed having voted for the Government motion. But as the Parliamentary dust settled, it emerged that Reed had voted with the Tories against an amendment tabled by John Baron, but when it came to the substantive motion over whether his country should send our young men and women into war, Croydon’s only Labour MP effectively opted to tick the box “don’t know”, and abstained.
Barwell, who as a teller had the task of reading out the voting scores to the House after the historic vote, described Reed’s abstention as “bizarre”.
This was John Baron’s amendment to the Government’s motion for war, on which Reed voted against:
“while welcoming the renewed impetus towards peace and reconstruction in Syria, and the Government’s recognition that a comprehensive strategy against Daesh is required, [this House] does not believe that the case for the UK’s participation in the ongoing air campaign in Syria by 10 countries has been made under current circumstances, and consequently declines to authorise military action in Syria”.
Baron, the Conservative MP for Billericay, is a long-standing sceptic of Middle East interventionism, and he managed to get cross-party support for his amendment from six parties, including the SNP and Labour. But not from Steve Reed.
Reed claims that he canvassed the opinion of 7,000 people on his Croydon North database, and that he received replies from 700 of them – a high response rate, indicative of how animated the public feels about the issue. All opinion polls suggest that the public, and Labour Party supporters, are overwhelmingly opposed to Britain embarking on military action in Syria. But Reed has claimed that in his straw poll, the “result was inconclusive with no clear majority one way or another”. This assertion is easily tested…
It was not until breakfast time today that Reed offered this explanation for his “bizarre” voting in Parliament: “The security of people here in the UK must be the Government’s top priority. ISIL have already made several attempts to launch attacks against British people at home and abroad. The only way to eliminate this threat is to defeat ISIL completely. Targeted airstrikes are undoubtedly a part of that. However, airstrikes will fail to defeat ISIL if they are not supported by action to cut off ISIL’s funding and supply lines, and they need to be supported by properly armed and led ground troops from countries in the region.
“Neither option of voting for or against the Government motion reflected that view. Since I could not vote against airstrikes which may be necessary but could also not vote for an incomplete strategy, I denied the Government my support by abstaining.”
Sources in Lambeth suggest that the Corbyn-supporting Momentum group is furious with the Streatham MP, Chukka Umunna, for voting in favour of airstrikes. In other parts of the country, Momentum has been calling for the de-selection of Labour MPs who have been openly disloyal to the party leader. In Croydon, the presence of Momentum has thus far been subterranean. Might Reed’s “bizarre” conduct last night prompt them to emerge from their underground existence?
“That’s the trouble with fence-sitting,” one source from the north of the borough said today of Reed’s abstaining. “You end up with splinters.”
“At a stroke, he’s managed to piss off his Progress supporters and his gay networks equally,” said another.
And a Westminster source said, “He may not have felt obliged to support an amendment with a strong involvement of a Tory backbencher and the SNP. But his party leader voted for it, as did the likes of David Lammy, fellow south London MPs Clive Efford and Kate Hoey, and Labour’s London Mayor candidate, Sadiq Khan.
“In the end, Reed’s voting with the Government and then abstaining comes across as weak and confused.
“Do we really want to send an MP to Westminster who expresses no view in the division lobbies on the substantive motion of whether the country goes to war?”
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