MPs representing this region are split along party lines on whether to back UK air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Syria in a crucial parliamentary vote taking place later on Wednesday.
Chester and Ellesmere Port Labour MPs Chris Matheson and Justin Madder are both against military action at the current time while Conservative MPs Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) and Graham Evans ( Weaver Vale ) will be voting in line with their Prime Minister’s view that air strikes are necessary.
City MP Mr Matheson said: “I do not believe that bombing in Syria at the moment would do anything other than make matters worse. There is a civil war with at least three, and more likely six or seven, different sides. We oppose IS and we oppose Assad, so do we bomb both of them?
“Will that help persuade the Russians to stop bombing Assad’s opponents whom we support? The situation is chaotic and more bombing would not calm or clarify that chaos.”
“In order to support bombing in Syria I would need assurances that such action was legal, and that there was a genuine post-conflict peace, reconciliation and reconstruction plan in place. It is fair to say that one of the reasons – but not the only reason – why we are in this mess now is because of the failure to make those arrangements in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.”
Friend and colleague Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston , agrees. A shadow health minister in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, he agrees with Corbyn’s firm stance against military action although Labour MPs have been given a free vote amid divisions within his own ranks.
He wrote: “Nobody could fail to be horrified by the events in Paris when hundreds of innocent people were gunned down in a cowardly and calculated attack. The attack is designed to divide us and to provoke us into a knee jerk reaction that ISIL will use as a recruiting agent to bolster their numbers.”
Mr Madders added: “Air strikes without an effective ground force will simply not be successful and I have seen no evidence to suggest that there is anything resembling an effective ground force in Syria.”
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A 10-hour House of Commons debate will culminate in a vote on whether the UK should join the US, France, Russia and others bombing targets in Raqqa, the IS group’s stronghold, and other areas. David Cameron, whose MPs are whipped to vote with the government, argues IS is a threat to Britain’s security.
Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans , who is parliamentary private secretary to Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon, will unsurprisingly vote with his government in favour of air strikes. But he also has a role in trying to persuade colleagues from across the party-divide to back the motion for military action but accepts the vote is ‘too close to call’.
He said: “The scale of the threat that we face from ISIL is unprecedented. It has already taken the lives of British hostages, and inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7, on the beaches of Tunisia.
“In the last few months, our police and security services have disrupted seven terrorist plots to attack the UK, every one of which was either linked to or inspired by ISIL. What happened in Paris could absolutely have happened in London, Manchester or Liverpool. I am in no doubt that it is in our national interest for action to be taken to stop them.”
Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach made clear on Twitter she would remain loyal to the Prime Minister by voting ‘for the motion outlining diplomatic, humanitarian and military action’ after reading constituents’ emails on the matter.
In a statement, she wrote: “The barbaric and murderous intention of ISIL/Daesh has been clear for a number of years with beheadings, rapes and mass murder of civilians wherever they operate. The primary duty of the UK is to keep its citizens safe.
“The Paris attacks demonstrate terrorism organised and masterminded from Raqqa. The clear purpose of the air strikes is to degrade Daesh’s ability to operate in Syria and to hit their supply lines and to stop their ability to finance their operations by illegally selling Syrian oil.”
The government has a working majority of 16 but there are thought to be at least 15 who will not back the government and the SNP’s 54 MPs are expected to be whipped to vote against. However, David Cameron is still expected to hold sway with up to 50 Labour MPs likely to back the government along with both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Liberal Democrats.
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