Saturday 10 December 2016

Commons' sense shows up parochical Leinster House

Published 05/12/2015 | 02:30

A woman weeps outside Britain’s House of Parliament this week after a vote was taken to bomb Syria. Getty
A woman weeps outside Britain’s House of Parliament this week after a vote was taken to bomb Syria. Getty

There are times, like this week, when the UK and its politics feels very distant from ours. Their parliament is definitely a global stage while ours can seem local, even parochial, by comparison.

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The House of Commons debate to extend air strikes against Isil into Syria was rowdy and passionate befitting the gravity of the matter. Divisions in the Labour party including downright opposition to the proposal by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn provided a fascinating backdrop. But removing the labour whip facilitated the numbers to achieve a clear majority. So 67 Labour MPs including half the shadow cabinet voted against their party leader's position. Hillary Benn's speech advocating air strikes was a triumph. Tensions were high. As Tony Blair discovered in 2003, embarking on a war when public and political opinion is divided is not for the faint hearted and can be political suicide.

The British are bellicose as a nation with a long and distinguished military heritage. When they go to war they mean business; the ink was hardly dry on the motion when the airstrikes began. But the Foreign Secretary stressed that military strikes on this occasion are only part of the solution. There is a clear political and humanitarian plan along with a military strategy agreed with allies in Geneva and a UN resolution.

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