Meeting with Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood

On Friday morning a group of constituents concerned about the move towards bombing in Syria went to speak to our MP, Helen Hayes (Labour), at her regular surgery. At very short notice eight of us went (plus one toddler!), half of us members of the Labour Party. Helen received us for a good 20-30 minute discussion.

Helen outlined her own position and what informs it. She has been listening to all sides, but at the moment is inclined to vote against bombing, unconvinced that a clear strategy has been laid out and other options exhausted (such as sanctions, international/regional talks and co-ordination, and work to combat the Daesh/ISIS ideology). She also doubts that it would make Britain safer, and on the contrary would probably heighten the existing terrorist threat. It appears like an attempted quick fix solution rather than a grand strategy.

The argument for bombing that she found most convincing was the alleged territorial losses by Daesh in Iraq in the past year, and the fact that it operates across the Syrian-Iraqi border.

We outlined some reasons why we find the case for bombing unconvincing. An Iraqi-origin member of group relayed to Helen what he hears from his friends in Iraq, including in Daesh-controlled areas. The people are hostages of Daesh, and aerial bombardment will only hurt the people rather than the militants. People are alienated from the Baghdad government (which the West supports, unlike its Syrian counterpart), and some are actually pleased that at least now, for the first time in a decade, they pay tax/extortion money only to one source rather than two (Daesh/Al Qaeda and Baghdad). Aerial bombardment by the Syrian and Iraqi governments, Coalition forces and Russians has killed far more people than ISIS. An ideology and a guerilla army cannot be defeated by from the air, and work must be done on the causes rather than the symptoms.

We also raised Cameron’s claim of 70,000 Free Syrian Army moderates, noting that even many Conservative MPs are sceptical of this number and the idea that this force can route ISIS. We argued that the Labour party annual conference took a stance against intervention unless strict conditions were met, including clear and unambiguous UN endorsement, and that this is currently lacking, as the recent UN resolution does not refer to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter (and the right to self-defence only concerns states).

We left Helen with a copy of Stop the War’s rebuttal of Cameron’s case for war, and a recent article by Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn.

It was a good meeting and we were very pleased that Helen received us, listened to our arguments, and is currently inclined to vote against bombing. She noted that she has regular surgeries and invited us to come talk to her as constituents whenever we want.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

27 Nov 2015

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