This morning, we woke to the news the US, UK and France had launched missile strikes on Syrian government facilities in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack. The Prime Minister called the air strikes “right and legal”, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the strikes labelling them “legally questionable.”
Controversially, this decision was taken with the approval of the Cabinet but without the approval of Parliament. This appears to have broken recent convention on military action used by previous Prime Ministers. So, was Theresa May correct to authorise military strikes and was she correct to bypass Parliament?
I believe Theresa May was correct to authorise the use of military strikes. The use of chemical weapons is an abomination and an act that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. It also follows a pattern of behaviour from President Assad and his allies. It has to be made clear this is not acceptable. Military strikes which limit President Assad’s ability to conduct similar such attacks, appear to me an entirely legitimate response.
However, I am also of the opinion the Prime Minister should have sought the approval of Parliament. This is not to tick a legal box. There is not a legal necessity for the Prime Minister to consult with Parliament before military intervention. So why should the Prime Minister have consulted with Parliament?
Firstly, let’s not underestimate the grave nature of what this country’s armed forces are engaged in. This is a dangerous and complex conflict. We elect our MPs to debate and discuss the biggest and most important issues of the day. Military intervention in Syria undisputedly fits into this category. Actions of this magnitude should face the greatest scrutiny.
Secondly, the Prime Minister would be in a far stronger position politically and on the world stage if she had the backing of Parliament. It is my view, parliamentary approval and a unified stance as far as possible (even if Labour backing was always unlikely) would send a far stronger signal.
Thirdly, as previous mentioned there has been a convention surrounding military intervention in recent years. There is no reason why this convention should have been broken. We should be strengthening the checks on our leaders when it comes to military action, not weakening them.
There is no good solution for the situation in Syria, but this was the correct response, albeit without the correct process.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph; The Times