MPs voted today to back air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, by a majority of 481.
Only 43 MPs voted against the motion, which was tabled by the government but supported by Labour on a three-line whip, two of the MPs rebelling were in EastLondonLines’ boroughs, and one of whom resigned her seat on the Shadow Front Bench.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in Tower Hamlets and Shadow Minister for Education, abstained entirely from the vote and this afternoon resigned from her post in the shadow cabinet.
Ali put out a statement about her resignation from the opposition front bench, the quotes are via Press Association.
In a letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband ahead of the vote, Ali wrote:
“I understand the case that has been made and will not be voting against the motion. But I am unable in conscience to support the motion and I will make a deliberate abstention.
There can be no doubt that the actions of Isil are horrific and barbaric and I share the revulsion that everyone in our country feels towards them.
However, I am not confident that this military action will be effective in the short term in just targeting the terrorists and not harming innocent civilians. Nor can I pretend to have any confidence that there is a credible long-term strategy to build up the capacity of the Iraqi army or that the potential impact on radicalisation in the UK has been properly thought through.
Despite good intentions, too many mistakes have been made over the last decade and far too many people in conflict zones have had to pay a high price for misconceived actions by the UK and other countries.
I appreciate the sincerity of Members of Parliament from all sides of the House who today support military action against Isil. I know that British Muslims stand united in the total condemnation of the murders that Isil have committed.
However, there is a genuine belief in Muslim and non-Muslim communities that military action will only create further bloodshed and further pain for the people of Iraq.”
Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, was one of the 43 MPs to vote against the motion. She told Radio 4 this morning: “We’ve all been horrified by the atrocities and massacres by Isil and the images we’ve seen of hostages about to be beheaded, but the truth is a lot of MPs have misgivings about this, I think we’ve seen this movie and we know how it ends.
“This is legal technically, because Iraq is inviting us in, but I don’t believe that British and American airstrikes can resolve a political issue in Iraq and a Sunni – Shia war, a conflict, across the region. So I will be voting no.”
When pressed about whether she believed the UK should take some responsibility for the current crisis in Iraq, Abbott said: “We certainly have some responsibility to Iraq. We spent 8.4 billion on the last war and left Iraq in the fractured mess in which we find it now, but I say that going in to bomb on one side of what is a Sunni – Shia war will not solve anything, and we are bound to get dragged into a long-running conflict. Ministers have admitted as much and said we’re in for the ‘long haul’.
“In terms of military conflict, we have to be sure that it’s going to make a difference.”
Abbott also made it clear that while not supporting military action, she is in favour of the UK providing other support: “My argument is we need to do more diplomatically, with Iraq on one side and the Saudis on the other. And we certainly need to give as much humanitarian aid as we can.
“But the idea that a Western bombing raid can solve what is an underlying political mess in Iraq, can’t be right.”