I was really hoping that David Cameron's motion to bomb Syria would fail. I think air strikes are at best totally ineffective and at worst totally immoral, and, to be honest, I don't see why any Labour MP was convinced to vote in favour. And yet I stand by the petition I started this week, in support of Stella Creasy, even though she was one of those Labour MPs. Why? Because I can't see any reason for her to have voted in favour.
I knew why Labour MPs voted for Blair's war in Iraq; because they were thinking of their own promotion prospects and were too self-interested to defy the whip. I know why MPs from more, shall we say, right-wing areas would vote for intervention in Syria; because they're thinking of their own careers come election time. But, unless Stella Creasy has always wanted to kill babies and has just been waiting for the chance, there is nothing for her to gain from voting the way she has. And that leaves only one option - she really thought it was the right thing to do.
This has always been the difference, for me, between being a bad person and just being wrong this time. And yes, I think Stella was wrong this time. But, to me, the fact that she was prepared to take the backlash, the abuse, the threats of deselection, damnation and death was actually worth more. It was exactly that determination and bravery that made me support her in the first place. It was the same integrity that she showed when she stood up for people like me against pay day lenders, or spoke for the victims of domestic violence, or refused to back down to internet trolls. When she was on my side I was so grateful for the fact that she would not be bullied out of something she believed, so I can't hope she'd lose that quality and cave when it suited me. A believer in free speech until the end, I shared my views and had to hope they'd be convincing; if not, I would accept it. That's how we roll in the Labour party, right?
And yet, before Stella had declared her intentions one way or the other, the assault had begun. Not from our political opponents, but from people supposed to be on our side. I grew more and more frustrated as the comments came rolling in. People that objected to being called terrorist sympathisers acting as terrorists (trying to change someone's vote with a rape threat? What would you call that?) People demanding she put the views of her constituents above her own principles and judgements, even though they were demanding MPs did exactly the opposite when it came to votes on same-sex marriage or immigration. People engaging in the sort of behaviour that we castigate UKIP for because it's different when it's us.
Yes, I was hurt on a personal level. Stella Creasy saved my life when she helped me get out of the payday loan trap, and has helped so many people I care about. I've been a local representative and I knew that feeling you get when you've tried so hard and achieved so much, only to have it erased by the last decision you made and a vocal minorities take on it. I also flinch at the words being thrown at her, a violent assault on everyone that shares our gender. But I've been through that before. I know how that pans out. You either challenge these people, and then have to spend an hour recovering from the headdesk after you're told 'shut up, you voicing your opinion is against free speech', or you don't, and then you hand the narrative over to the very people you think deserve it least. I was sitting there, so sad that a handful of people that I'll charitably assume can't spell the word 'can't' were allowed to set the tone for the day, and then I thought:
Who decided that you can only give feedback when you're upset? Who made the decision that the people with the most extreme opinions felt more deeply than the rest of us? Why is the silent majority presumed not to exist? So I decided to share my view. I did it under exactly the same right that allow people to hurl abuse unpunished, and for exactly the same reason - I thought it, and I had a right to say as much.
So far, over twelve hundred people have signed to say they agree. That's twelve hundred people who would otherwise not have existed when it came to the day's analysis of the Twittersphere. I hoped that maybe it would give a more accurate picture of what people really think, put all of the vitriol into some sort of perspective.
Failing that, I hoped it would at least give Stella (who, I've recently discovered, is a human being like myself) the sort of comfort I used to cling to when I was desperately trying to do my best. But ultimately I did it because, regardless of the abuse it would no doubt provoke, in spite of the fact I had nothing to gain from it personally, I thought it was right. And Stella Creasy taught me that.