Syria Statement

I have been contacted by many people about the Government’s proposed actions against Daesh.

I saw the Government’s motion yesterday and I am aware that the Labour Party has an un-whipped  ‘free vote’ on this issue when MPs vote this evening.

I have now made my mind up having listened to the start of the debate today. I still aim to try and speak in the debate but wanted you, as a constituent, to know how I had reached my conclusion.

If I get to speak I aim to say the following today:

“I rise with a heavy heart to contribute to this debate. This is an incredibly difficult decision, agonised by Members of all Parties who have reached their conclusions with significant deliberation.

I believe the Government handling of the crisis that is Daesh has been weak. Insufficient detail has been provided on the specifics of what actions the Government plans to ask our armed forces to undertake – or the outcomes those activities are meant to achieve.

I believe Members of the Commons and people across the country deserve more information on:

  • the military and financial targets that UK forces will be tasked with destroying;
  • what the UK would do to rebuild a country ravaged by years of civil war;
  • how the aid budget will be bolstered to support this increased activity;
  • what more the UK will do to help refugees. The Government response on refugees so far has been pathetic and has come under massive criticism across Bermondsey and Old Southwark; and
  • how the UK is seeking a political settlement longer term. Action against Daesh does not solve what we do about Assad and the civil war. That alone is not a reason not to attack Daesh: our own security may require that, as well as working on how we protect Syrian civilians there, reduce the flow of refugees and work with others to remove Assad through a political process.

However, we only have one, limited Government option before us today. If the option is this one, limited proposal or doing nothing to help those at risk of attack by Daesh, then I fundamentally do not accept that people in the areas controlled by Daesh, or my constituents, wider London or the UK are safer by doing nothing.

I also wanted to highlight the issue of fear today. We cannot live in fear of action. The UK is already a target for Daesh whether we intervene now or not.

There is no less risk through UK involvement now. But fear and risks are exacerbated by doing nothing. Doing nothing means Daesh continues to:

  • train and equipment more terrorists to attack from Daesh areas or beyond, and including in the UK;
  • raise money from the areas controlled; funds then used by Daesh to attack in other countries and buy more military equipment;
  • radicalise from what was Syria.

These Daesh activities are already aimed at us in the UK. Counter-terrorism officers make an arrest every two days based on intelligence against suspected attackers in the UK. Half of those arrests are here in London. An arrest every other day of people being radicalised by Daesh whilst we fail to act.

There is also a very real risk that by advocating abstinence, we send a message to potential recruits and those being radicalised in the UK and beyond. A message that travelling to what used to be Syrian controlled territories may go unpunished by the UK. Instead our message must be simple: if you go, you risk your own death and not those of innocent civilians. Our message must be that the young men and women being radicalised should choose to stay and live in the UK and reject the abhorrence that is Daesh.

This is why the Government commitment to increase resources for security services in the UK is welcome, albeit at the apparent loss of some frontline officers, including PCSOs, who make a contribution in the battle against potential terrorists. Investing to prevent radicalisation is part of the battle we must undertake. But it will not work on its own, and is thoroughly undermined if we send a message that travelling abroad to kill in the name of a fascist ideology will go unchecked or unpunished. 

I also think it is important that we send as united a message as possible to the RAF pilots who appear to be about to be asked to undertake dangerous operations in the interests of UK civilians and beyond. If tasked, they must have our support. I hope we never again see a situation where troops on the ground or in the air serving our country are told by MPs in the Commons that their actions are illegal.

Coming back to the issue of fear, I think we must have the courage to do what we think is right, irrespective of the inevitable backlash. I have faced physical threats over how I might vote on this issue. Those threats are unacceptable and do not shape my position or decision. Quite the opposite.

Those threats have been exacerbated by a faux divide between my Party and my leader. That divide has been settled: this is a free vote and I thank Jeremy Corbyn for sticking to his values and principles in ensuring we all vote on our own conscience.
I believe that there is also a fear of the past that has crept into today’s debate. Mistakes made post-military action in Iraq cast a long shadow on many Members of Parliament but especially over the Labour Party. But we must not live in fear of the past. Nor do two wrongs make a right. Past failure to plan cannot excuse inaction now – inaction that leaves women raped, older women massacred, gay men thrown off buildings and humans caged and burnt or drowned in the name of a fascist ideology.

The Labour Party is the Party of internationalism. We helped establish the UN. France is calling for our support. The UN has unanimously backed – and required – action. And Labour's national party conference provided a mandate to act with that UN endorsement.

I refuse to be the kind of person that walks on by. Nor do I accept that is the view or will of the British public. I will today be supporting the Government motion and hope more detail will be provided soon.

I have taken many soundings and received many emails on the issue and I know my final decision will upset some constituents and even some of my local Party members. But their safety and security are of paramount importance to me – as is tackling the atrocities being committed by Daesh.

This has been a very tough decision to reach and I am glad many members and constituents have also said they will respect my conclusion. Whilst it makes me upset to conclude military action is required, I also believe it would be immoral to choose doing nothing over voting to support limited UK military involvement at this stage."

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commented 2015-12-06 19:37:54 +0000
I think I will be voting for Simon Hughes next time! Yours was a disgraceful disloyalty to your leader and the general Labour Party voter.

Anybody who really believes that there are real people in Syria planning attacks in the UK must dotty. Thanks for making the UK a more unsafe place than it already is. There must be plenty of young idealistic people in this country who empathize with the plight of people being bombed over the last 10 years in the Middle East and who may stupidly think that bombing us is a desperate sign of resistance like the actions of Palestinians against the Israels. If most of us believed that bombing Syria will solve the problem once and for all, we would support it but we all know that in 6/12/36 months time nothing will be resolved! Study history!
commented 2015-12-06 10:09:17 +0000
Hi Fabrice -

I’m not sure what tweets you’re referring to from Neil in August. In any case, of course, Harriet Harman was the Labour Party leader then and it would not have been inappropriate for an MP or anyone else to pass comment on any of the leadership candidates.

If you have question or issues for Neil, come along and raise them at the next CLP meeting. I’m a new member myself and have always found him to be very approachable and happy to explain his position on any matter.
commented 2015-12-06 01:07:27 +0000
I’m not a hard left or a pacifist. But pragmatic and realist. Previous interventions resulted in chaos. More extremists, more terror attacks, migrant crisis and our civil liberties being at risk in the name of security.
A bombing campaign in the name of our safety? 61% of Londoners feel they are now at greater risk of an attack.

I believe there is a problem with our MP writing of “a faux divide between my party and my leader”.
The leader, the vast majority of members, 2/3 of the MPs and even the majority of shadow cabinet voted against bombing. It would have been more accurate to write perhaps of a " faux divide between the party and some MPs"…

Perhaps it is not so surprising with a tweet from our MP concerning his leader about his " integrity " 13.08.2015
And another one about his lack of support amongst MPs 14.08.2015
So I will not say our MP lack integrity or honesty. But I say I lost confidence in him. And I fear what happened Wednesday could become our “tuition fees” moment. Do we want the lib-dem to return in 2020?
commented 2015-12-06 01:06:20 +0000
Here here Terri
commented 2015-12-05 19:00:15 +0000
What evidence in Parliament, evidence of how bombing works ? as it’s completely failed in the Middle East before, maybe you would like to enlighten us when this Government could not.
commented 2015-12-05 14:03:12 +0000
I would just like to add my support for Neil Coyle here. Whatever one’s feeling about which way to vote on this particular issue, it is his job as an MP – an elected representative for all constituents in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, not just CLP members and definitely not just Stop the War and/or Momentum activists – to vote according to the evidence presented to him in Parliament, what he believes is in the best interest of his constituents (and the country at large) and his conscience.

I find calls for deselection or votes of no confidence in Neil offensive – and completely at odds with the values that attracted me to joining the Labour Party in the first place. That, in my opinion, is shameful.
commented 2015-12-03 18:43:45 +0000
Lets be honest here, you cared not a jot as to what your constituents and party members think, this vote was about you for you, you are completely incapable of thinking of better ways, you don’t have the mental capacity, the sooner you are out of the Labour party and out of politics the better. A fool of the highest order.
commented 2015-12-03 18:10:35 +0000
" Insufficient detail has been provided on the specifics of what actions the Government plans to ask our armed forces to undertake – or the outcomes those activities are meant to achieve.”

It seems to me that the role of opposition is to hold the government to account and to obtain the information which has been intentionally obfuscated throughout the run-up to this debate.
The points raised in your statement are the crux of the argument for not supporting airstrikes in the face of such a lack of information.
If you believe, as you claim to, that your constituents and the Commons are entitled to more specific information, it seems at best ridiculous for you to support a motion which absolves the government from having to provide any of the details which you profess are lacking.

Refusing to extend airstrikes is an action. It is not ‘doing nothing’. It is not ‘standing by’. This rhetoric serves only the same attitudes which led to conscientious objectors being shot for cowardice a century ago.

I voted Labour in the hope of a Labour government. I hoped at the very least that my Labour MP might provide an opposition to poisonous, bellicose ideologies of self-interest and self-preservation.
I am therefore deeply saddened that given the occasion to consider and decide upon the part our country will play in helping to resolve a brutal conflict, the person my vote helped empower to make that decision has chosen to support actions that by his own assertion have not been adequately explained, and will result in further violence.

A difficult decision, to be certain, but it is surely better not to start blowing things up until you absolutely know that there is no other choice available. Did the Tories really present enough of a case that you are certain there is not another option? Is there not a single doubt in your mind that the world is safer for sending more firepower?

Assad’s forces have been responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Syria. Thanks to your vote, we are now providing air support to his forces, despite the fact that you have queried long term plans to remove him.
We know that Daesh are using the population as a human shield. Your vote has supported strikes against a force who have no qualms hiding behind the civilians they already torture and abuse.
I am ashamed that instead of offering a united front against a government intent on nationalistic posturing and fear-mongering, your vote has guaranteed their agenda.
commented 2015-12-03 17:52:06 +0000
There was not only one option Neil. Don’t be be disingenuous. If you had voted no then there would have been greater pressure to reach a negotiated settlement. Very disappointed.
commented 2015-12-03 17:05:28 +0000
In response to Fabrice, I didn’t agree with Neil’s decision and i am against the bombing of Syria but I do honour and respect that he would have only voted the way that he did after much thought. I certainly have not lost confidence in him snd neither have the electorate: the people who teceive benefit from the money he has donated to food banks having refused to take the increase in salary, one of less than 30 mps who kept their word not to; the mentally ill whose grants have not been cut after he got the bill amended; the individuals such as late Malcolm White who dying of cancer had waited weeks for pip assessment until Neil came to his rescue. We have waited over 30 years to win back this seat. I have complete confidence that in Neil Coyle we have elected the right man to represent and look after his constituents. I don’t know who the ‘us’ are that Fabrice refers to but the majority of our members, some of whom agreed with his decision, are very proud of Neil and his achievements.
commented 2015-12-03 15:31:07 +0000
You said you have faced physical threats. It should be reported. We will support you. You have your own reasons for refusing to support your leader. After Afghanistan, Irak, Libya…are we safer? We are angry, very angry. But it must be expressed in a democratic and respectful way.

Asking for a vote of no confidence is a democratic way to express our anger. You are free to vote as you wish. But we are free to say we lost confidence in our MP.
commented 2015-12-03 13:44:13 +0000
I won’t be able to say it better but just wanted to say that I am very very disappointed with your vote. I think it’s a cowardly knee-jerk reaction to go ahead with further airstrikes with no actual benefit or long-term solution thought of. The PM’s arguments have been far from convincing and raises more questions than answers. Now we can sit back and relax and believe we have done something – except that its completely meaningless.
commented 2015-12-03 10:50:22 +0000
I have to say that I , like many others I am sure who voted for you am disappointed with your yes vote. I respect your argument and I totally disagree with any threats to you physically but I would like to say this.
I do not live in fear of terrorism or of our way of life being destroyed by militant extremists . I live in fear of the actions of this Tory government and the supporters from the Labour Party who have gone into another winless devastating war.
I do not believe this is about terrorism – if we truly went into the Middle East to get rid of tyrants and terror and to allow people basic human rights then why are we not doing the same in Saudi Arabia or in Israel ?
I do not believe you can have a war on terror and I recall the terrorists of the past – those vilified and condemned – who are now see as great world leaders or who through negotiation are still working for peace and justice – this is not a war on terror it is a war of control – to control the minds of the public through fear, to divide us on religious, ethnic, class grounds so we do not unite and truly fight what is destroying so many lives – power, greed, money and a false ideology that we are the guardians of the world when in fact we are the arrogant ones who may ultimately destroy it.
My only hope is that our leader – the man who was voted in with a large majority the man who has been attacked every day – that terrorist sympathiser – is in fact winning over the hearts and minds of so many as he speaks out for justice equality and fairness – and he spoke for me yesterday which I am sorry to say you as my local MP whom I voted for and who I hoped and prayed would have spoken for me and many like me have let not only myself down you have let yours leader down and ultimately you have let down the people of Syria and it may ultimately be the world.
I am not I fear of terrorists – I am in fear of lies, propaganda and the people in power who forget they are there to represent the people – not to further their own career or to gain power. I have awoken today fearing more for my safety and the safety of all those I hold dear because we have bombed Syria –
Democracy means you are free to vote as you wish – but it also means you respect the votes that put Jeremy Corbin in the leadership role and listen to him and his words because that was the only argument that made sense yesterday – freedom of speech is about me telling you how angry and disappointed I am that someone I voted for has in my opinion fallen for the lies and retoric of this self serving government lead by the real terrorist sympathiser – you lack of trust in someone who I feel will be seen as a great man is something I see as a error in your judgement – and to me the only explanation for this is that you and the other labour MPs who voted yes are doing this not because they know it is right but because they have their own agenda and are too scared to support someone who actually stands for what the Labour Party is meant to be about
commented 2015-12-03 10:29:40 +0000
I do not doubt that last night, individually, MPs voted the way they did for a variety of reasons. Most had the courage of their convictions, which ever way they voted, others decided after listening to the debate, and a few will have taken the opportunity to make a Party political point. Since nobody has the power of telepathy, all who voted must be given the benefit of the doubt. I believe that the fact that they were elected as MPs means they have a duty to vote, so I don’t agree with anyone being lauded or lambasted for that. Only an abstainer deserves criticism.
To those who would direct taunts at others who comment, I would say disagree by all means but you can defeat your own argument with one crass remark (I’m sure we’ve all done it!). To those that decide that they can’t support a Party because of the actions of an individual, I would say think about why you joined in the first place. It will never always go the way you want, and you won’t change anything from the outside. Our Party is in a state of flux, and things will be painful. Political opportunists who use terrorist attacks to undermine our credibility as an Opposition are shameless. Thankfully, they are few. In the coming weeks, the veil of faux solemnity will slip and they will make themselves known by their gloating.
I go back to my first point about having the courage of your convictions. Keep on making your point. make it in the right forums (fora). Influence opinion and make a difference. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”
commented 2015-12-03 09:56:22 +0000
Dear Neil,
I do understand people disagreeing so much with your decision that they no longer wish to support you, but I am shocked to read that you have been threatened with physical violence. That’s completely unacceptable and I hope you have reported it to the police. I would if someone threatened me, especially whilst carrying out my work. I am disappointed and feel let down by the decision to support Cameron’s ill thought plan, especially after his vile comments. I would have liked to see all Labour MPs say ‘if you want it partisan, that’s what you will get’ and vote No. As it is, it will be suggested that 65 Labour MPs agree that their leader is a terrorist sympathiser (its not what you say, that gets lost, its how you vote). This will do a lot of damage to the Labour party and I see trouble ahead. Very saddened this morning.

commented 2015-12-03 09:36:02 +0000
I don’t understand the frequent comments of “Shame on you”! You are entitled to disagree with this decision, but you degrade you argument by suggesting anyone who takes a different view is to be shamed. Grow up.
commented 2015-12-03 09:30:43 +0000
I couldn’t be more disappointed in your decision to support these air strikes. It’s as if no lessons whatsoever have been learned by you, and the Labour colleagues that voted with you, following the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The issue is not whether or not anything should be done to tackle Daesh – and you patronise us by trying to reduce it to such a simple decision. It’s whether air strikes that will inevitably cause civilian casualties, boost recruitment, and most likely lead to a power vacuum in the region, are the best course of action. Lest we forget that we now find ourselves siding with Assad, who is also responsible for war crimes of the kind you list above, barely more than two years since a commons vote on whether or not to carry out air strikes against him was taken. Does that amount to a coherent strategy?

This decision alone is sufficient for me to avoid voting for you at the next election, and I say that with a heavy heart, as a life-long Labour supporter. I also find myself hoping that the other Labour MPs who voted with the government on this issue fail to be re-elected. Shame on you, Neil.
commented 2015-12-03 00:17:59 +0000
A tough decision to make and I respect every MP who has thought this through, regardless of where they lultimately landed on the question. The conduct of the debate today appeared to generally reflect well on parliament, with most members appearing, at least during the bits I was able to watch, to show restraint and respect in how they addressed opposing views. I would hope that within the broader party we can conduct ourselves as well as our parliamentarians did today in having the necessary debates on this and other hotly contested issues in a respectful, intelligent manner. For what it’s worth, I think Neil has taken the more difficult option here when there was an apparently easier out of saying we didn’t have all the answers we wanted. I think we had enough to make a decision, and I am proud to have campaigned for Neil, and will happily do so again.
commented 2015-12-03 00:12:37 +0000
A really difficult decision, I applaud Neil for his thoughtful reflection and clear analysis. The “anti-war” lobby seem to have missed the point that there is a war going on. “I don’t want a war” they say, conveniently ignoring the fact that there is one already. Millions displaced, hundreds of thousands dead. Fascism and intolerance of other viewpoints needs to be confronted. In Syria and closer to home. Well done, Neil, for being brave enough to make a decision that you knew would not be universally popular.
commented 2015-12-02 23:17:18 +0000
In answer to Alex and others who have suggested Neil Coyle has gone against the views of 100% of his constituents, please do not be so arrogant. You can absolutely disagree with this decision, but you view is not universally shared. I listed to much of the debate this evening and clearly many MPs including Mr Coyle have weighed up many factors and come to a difficult conclusion. For what it’s worth I too have come to this conclusion having as recently as Monday been opposed to extending bombing to Syria.

MPs have voted with on our behalf with their conscience, and deserve respect for doing so whatever you opinion may be
commented 2015-12-02 21:52:02 +0000
I am SO disappointed to read this. I had hoped for far better. We can not solve violence with more violence. I absolutely do NOT agree with bombing Syria and taking the lives of innocents in an attempt to get to the people that actually WANT us to retaliate.
By not bombing we are not ‘doing nothing’. There are other options – for starters cutting off supplies to people that fund terrorist groups. By attacking we are putting our neglected armed forces at further risk, as well as taking the lives and injuring innocent Syrians.
It this vote were put to the public it would be an overwhelming no. I’m angered and deeply saddened that you have not chosen to listen to this, but will continue on with the Tories. You say yourself that there is insufficient information, and yet on this you still agree to airstrikes? I can not even begin on how reprehensibly irresponsible this is.
You say we are at no more risk if we strike, yet seem to feel we need to ‘teach them a lesson’. You fear ‘walking on by’ yet don’t see that by attacking we are fueling the fire of Daesh. How do you plan to hit only terrorists and no one else with these bombs? How do you plan to catch them all? They’re not all even IN Syria.
I respect Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas on a different plan of action. I respect his decision to let Labour MPs vote as they wish. I just wish that more Labour MPs would have more faith in Corbyn, instead of repeating the same tired old disastrous mistakes.
I do not want a war. I do not condone the actions you are voting for tonight. Not in my name.
commented 2015-12-02 18:43:16 +0000
The Telegraph: "Britain looks set for war as 40 labour MP plan to revolt against " terrorist sympathiser" Jeremy Corbyn". I heard someone talking about organising a vote of no confidence within CLP. Did Neil Coyle asked prime minister to resign for calling his leader a “terrorist sympathiser”?
Who is in control within CLP? The members or the MP not listening and giving ammunitions to Cameron?

A vote of no confidence is needed.
commented 2015-12-02 18:26:31 +0000
A brave statement made after much reflection.
commented 2015-12-02 17:47:55 +0000
Tremendously disappointing. You’re response also ignores the fact we are undertaking action against IS, in Iraq, where there is a ground force.

Echoing previous comments, this is a hash of a plan that should be rejected until there is adequate planning, preparation, consideration and consultation to maximise every avenue to stop Daesh.
commented 2015-12-02 17:34:35 +0000
Hear hear to William’s comments. This needs a properly thought out proposal. Bombs achieve nothing alone – use any influence you have by saying ‘no’ to an ill-constructed strategy. By all means vote ‘yes’ once there is a decent proposal to vote for. Is there a single constituent who thinks, as this government’s argument stands, that this is a good idea?
commented 2015-12-02 17:11:39 +0000
your arguments for not murdering civilians in the area are stronger than those for doing so
– if there is some vague hope that “Our bombs” are smarter than those that failed to tackle Daesh in Iraq this is a fantasy.
protecting your constituents by murdering others is not a policy anyone should adopt…
commented 2015-12-02 16:26:49 +0000
Neil. Firstly, I respect your decision as much as I disagree with it.
I do think, however, that by NOT supporting an extension to military action (at the moment), you would not be ‘doing nothing’. Rather, I think it would send a message (which should be articulated to the full) to David Cameron that he cannot get away with bringing such a poorly constructed argument to the House. Furthermore, he should be sent away to speak to the other interested and active parties on this conflict, chiefly the USA and Russia, (and their respective allies) with a view to creating a credible and lasting post-conflict plan before embarking on the inevitable military action.

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