Yesterday's debate on Cameron's proposal for air strikes on Daesh made for compelling viewing - in parts. I didn't watch the whole thing - just the first hour and the last hour (of 10 hours) but what I did see and hear largely impressed me as committed parliamentary debate. A lot of people were definitely speaking from the heart - but therein perhaps lay the problem: too much emotion and lack of reason.
A good deal of the Labour support for the motion was in support for the French. "If the atrocities had been committed in London [and not Paris] wouldn't we be upset if France didn't support our retaliation?" - was a main theme. Also, "strikes have done their part in Iraq, so why not Syria?" - another theme. The fact that Syria is such a complex and rich cocktail was largely ignored by the emotionalists.
Perhaps the most telling speech was the penultimate one - by Hilary Benn (Labour shadow foreign sec). His speech has been lauded as one of the most brilliant on record. But was the content so impressive?
Here's what someone on reddit.com wrote...
I've just listened to this, and personally found it totally unconvincing. It was a well crafted speech, but more of an appeal to emotion than an appeal to reason.Agreed. The speech - for me at least - sounded more like one from someone who was out to make a name for himself, perhaps as a replacement for Jeremy Corbyn?
Hilary Benn talked a lot about the threat to the UK and the atrocity in Paris, but failed to make the case for air strikes having any effect whatever on this.
He also talked up the less than stellar successes in Iraq. In reality there is a lot more work to be done in Iraq, and he didn't disclose the reasons for shifting our focus to Syria.
And his point about the 70,000 (or however many) men fielded by supposed allies was technically correct: there will indeed be less people on our side as time goes on. This is a campaign that has a terrible attrition on infantry. But he can't dismiss the uncertainty about their numbers, composition or allegiance: this is absolutely key.I regret to conclude that Hilary Benn is playing his own game here, and it's not a game I have much sympathy with.
I sense a split in the Labour Party fairly soon.