Why Labour’s Tower Hamlets MPs were split on vote to bomb Isis-Daesh in Syria

PUBLISHED: 14:45 09 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:46 09 December 2015

East London MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali

East London MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali


MPs representing London’s East End with its large Muslim population have issued statements explaining why they were split in the Commons vote to bomb Isis-Daesh in Syria.

The two Labour members covering the London borough of Tower Hamlets were on opposite sides in last week’s controversial vote at Westminster.

Tornado takes off from RAF Lossiemouth as RAF jets carry out first bombing runs over Syria [PAWire]Tornado takes off from RAF Lossiemouth as RAF jets carry out first bombing runs over Syria [PAWire]

Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick voted for bombing, while neighbouring Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali came out against. Both constituencies have large numbers of Asian voters.

“I found myself in the majority with 397 Parliamentary colleagues who voted for the motion, to 223 who voted against,” Jim Fitzpatrick said in a statement today to the East London Advertiser.

“I was and still am in favour of extending our efforts to Syria.

“Daesh claims to be an Islamic state, but I am sure many agree that much, if not all, of their actions scream against the teachings of Islam.

Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim FitzpatrickPoplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick

“The stabbing at Leytonstone Underground station this weekend where the attacker claimed his actions were ‘for Syria’ and the subsequent ‘YouAintMuslimBruv’ (sic) hashtag on Twitter is a very recent and close-to-home example of how un-Islamic the ideology really is. It is clear the best of Daesh’s critics are, in fact, Muslims.”

Britain has been engaged in action against Daesh in Iraq for some time, the MP points out. The military intervention in Syria was only an extension of that campaign.

Fitzpatrick had previously resigned from his ministerial post in 2013 over his “outright disagreement of intervening in Syria back then”.

His decision to vote for action this time was based on “a genuine difference of opinion, that we need to attack the Daesh terrorists directly and was neither an attack on Islam nor on Jeremy Corbyn’s (Labour) leadership”.

Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali in a previous Commons debateBethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali in a previous Commons debate

But his co-Labour colleague Rushanara Ali put out a statement to the Advertiser last week saying air strikes wouldn’t achieve their aim without ground forces to back them up.

She said in her statement to the paper: “I feel revulsion at the horrific actions of Isis-Daesh. We are all united in wanting to see them eliminated.

“The crucial question is how this can be achieved and whether military intervention in Syria by Britain would achieve this.”

The civil war has claimed 250,000 lives and displaced millions, she pointed out. Bringing an end to the conflict and eliminating Isis “requires a political settlement, a credible military presence on the ground backed by humanitarian support and post-conflict reconstruction”.

She added: “There needs to be a comprehensive strategy on how Isis can be defeated. But the government’s response lacked clarity on what practical difference our involvement in joining the air strikes campaign would make beyond a show of solidarity with our allies.”

The case for involvement was weak, she felt, given some 2,700 coalition air strikes having already been launched and some reports suggesting coalition forces were “running out of targets” to hit.

Her resolve was that air strikes were “not effective without a path towards a political settlement to end the Syrian civil war, without a credible ground offensive to defeat Isis-Daesh and a clear exit strategy.”

Fitzpatrick, for his part, was aware that attacking Daesh alone would not halt its existence, but “would hinder its ability”. Air strikes against Daesh in Iraq needed to be repeated wherever they were, he feels.

But there was also a need to sort other aspects such as arms supplies, oil sales and other revenues which are being pursued alongside any military intervention.

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