Last night was a bitter sweet moment. On the one hand, the British public, clearly sceptical of their government's proposed intervention in Syria had their voices heard through the MPs they democratically elected. Instead of the Prime Minister using his constitutional right to overrule parliament through the Royal Prerogative, he graciously showed great deference to the will of the people. It was a momentous and beautiful moment and one which cemented the supremacy of the legislature over the executive. In this respect, it was a pride inducing moment.
It was, however, also a profoundly bitter moment because of what it says to the world about the morality of the British people. Is it not ironic and tragic to be celebrating the triumph of democracy and freedom of speech through ignoring the cries of the Syrian people for exactly the same rights? Worse than that though, it was through denying them even the right to life. What we have silently witnessed over the last two years is a dictator brutalising his own people in the most ghastly ways. Chemical weapons or not, the killing of well over 150,000 people is morally repugnant.
Despite our ethically questionable inaction in preventing the death of so many innocent and defenceless Syrians, our government had at least stated on numerous occasions that the red line would be the use of chemical weapons. Given the indiscriminate nature of such weapons, this was the least we could do. However, last night and rather shamefully, MPs ruled out intervention even if the UN concludes that chemical weapons have been used by the Assad regime. Whilst I too wanted to see independent clarification by the UN, this decision by our parliament has left me disillusioned and stunned.
Are we as a people truly willing to let tyrants gas their own people in order to maintain their reprehensible grip on power? What the government was proposing was not a Libya style operation, but a short, sharp and limited strike to act as a deterrence against the future use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and other states immoral enough to contemplate their use. A very dangerous precedent has now been set: You can kill a seemingly unlimited number of your own people conventionally and even gas them and the British people will not stop you. From now on, we will support the law of the jungle where the dirtiest player with the biggest stick wins.
I feel truly ashamed to be British today. How anyone with moral integrity can feel proud is beyond my comprehension. There is however, one potential silver lining and that is a restoration of the British people's trust in their system of governance. I found it deeply saddening to see the extreme and largely unwarranted cynicism directed at the government and Parliament through the comments on the websites of almost every major news source. Last night they listened.
Perhaps this moment will resuscitate our faith in our time honoured political system that is envied the world over. Indeed, it is my hope that the next time our country is faced with a similar moral dilemma, we will trust our government, live up up to our moral responsibilities and prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people dreaming and fighting for a better future.