Published: September 4, 2013
Burnham Conservative candidate explains his position on Syria

The Conservative's parliamentary candidate for the Burnham-On-Sea area has explained why he would have voted differently to MP Tessa Munt in last week's House of Commons vote on military action in Syria.

James Heappey, pictured, has had first-hand experience of conflict, having served as an officer in the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment when he saw action in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Iraq.

He told this week: "From the comfort of my home in Axbridge, I can dance around the Middle East in an analysis of the geopolitical impacts of the current situation and what might happen if we intervened in Syria. But all of that is hypothesis. What we know is that innocent people are being gassed. Innocent people are being burned alive by napalm. Innocent people are being shot at and blown up. Parents are losing their children and children are losing their parents. They are all losing hope."

"Sure, it’s not our war. Nor was Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo or Sierra Leone. We are war weary and we’re pretty hard up. Missile strikes seem the most obvious (and safe) option but there is a danger we’ll be striking at shadows; using lethal force as a token gesture and risking the lives of more innocent civilians. And what if they fail? What if there is another chemical attack? Do we bomb Syria again and again and again?"

"However, last week Parliament was invited to consider a motion that did not commit us immediately to armed intervention. It asked our MPs to do nothing more than condemn Bashar al-Assad and the use of chemical weapons and then wait until the UN inspectors had reported with the prospect of intervention acknowledged as an option. I would have voted for that motion with both hands and both feet."

"Military action was to be the subject of a second debate in which I would have wanted to know what our objectives were and whether we had the intelligence and the precision weapons needed to achieve them. Embroiling us in a war with no obvious outcome; I would vote against. But if our Prime Minister, our National Security Council and our military planners believed that they could do something – anything – to limit the chances of chemical weapons being used again; I would vote for it."

"Our current MP has written her views on Syria too. She writes that she listened to “most” of the debate. Most!? This is a decision of grave importance, a decision that weighs most heavily on the consciences of our politicians. Listening to it all surely cannot be too much to ask."

"She also writes as if she is against intervention but then says that if Assad is proven to be culpable, he must be punished. On Thursday last week, she was asked to vote for exactly that. But she didn’t. Nor did she vote against it. She abstained."

"The following morning, Paddy Ashdown thundered on Twitter 'In 50 years trying to serve my country I have never felt so depressed/ashamed. Britain's answer to the Syrian horrors? None of our business!' In parliament the night before, Ms Munt had not even offered an answer."

"I respect those who take an opposing view to my own and voted in accordance with their conscience but abstention is just the easy way out. It lets others do the deciding, it lets others wrestle with their consciences and it lets others take the flack. It means you can try to be on both sides of the argument but actually you are on neither. It was the easy way out on tuition fees and it is now the easy way out on Syria."

"Those who did not take the easy way out will never be vindicated. Inaction will see more people dead and potentially set a precedent for others with chemical weapons in the future. However, a limited intervention might fail too and that might make us look impotent. What is certain though is that innocent people are suffering horrendously in Syria. The lucky ones are in the squalor of refugee camps on the Jordanian and Turkish borders. We must help them. The unlucky ones are being burned alive by napalm and gassed by Assad in their own homes. Let’s hope that the USA and France are able to stand up for them."


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