The Times – 3 January 2015 (published a shortened version of this original text)
On the basis of no hard evidence, Peter Kellner suggests ("Politicians should ignore our opinion polls", Dec 30) that the MPs who defied their whips, by voting against military action in Syria a year ago, were cowed by public opposition to intervention. Soon after that vote, however, you published the list (Aug 31, 2013) of what you rightly termed "The 39 Stops". Whilst I cannot speak for all the rebels listed, I note that they included such colleagues as Sir Peter Tapsell, Sir Richard Shepherd, David Davis, Steve Baker, John Baron, Philip Davies, Philip Hollobone and Andrew Turner. The idea that such independent-minded figures (and plenty more of the 39 rebels can be similarly described) “suppressed their hawkish interests to placate a doveish electorate” is risible to anyone who knows them.
The basis for my own opposition had nothing to do with any craven interpretation of Mr Kellner’s polls. It was that removing Assad – atrocious though he was – would be strategically illiterate and totally against UK interests. We would have been fighting on the same side as an estimated 6,000 al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists into whose hands Assad’s chemical arsenal would most probably have fallen, in the event of his overthrow. Parliament had already been misled into a similar intervention in Libya, on the pretext that we were voting only for a 'no-fly zone'. Soon after that approval was given, an all-out intervention in the Libyan civil war transformed yet another Arab dictatorship into yet another Islamist cauldron, deeply hostile to the West and its values. We would have been extremely stupid, after that experience, to do the same thing in Syria too. Indeed, only a year later, we rightly supported action against ISIL – an intervention on the opposite side to that so foolishly proposed in August 2013.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA