On Sunday during a range of interviews Chancellor George Osborne appeared to prepare the ground for another vote on military action in Syria. In the light of the growing refugee crisis, the government sees military action (bombing campaign, rather than boots on the ground!) against Assad and IS in Syria as a way of dealing with this crisis and creating a more sustainable environment in Syria.
The situation in Syria and Britain’s response has caused much debate for the last few years. In the last parliamentary term David Cameron and the coalition government famously lost a vote on Syria. However since then Cameron and the Conservatives have won an overall majority and may feel with the deteriorating situation in Syria they are now in a stronger position to win the vote. This will enable Cameron to be clearer about his aims and may push previously sceptical MPs onto his side.
Cameron was previously outmanoeuvred by Ed Miliband and will be anxious to avoid a similar situation with the new Labour leader this time. Corbyn is odds-on to win the Labour leadership race and is famous for his anti-war position and is therefore unlikely to back further military involvement. There is though still a strong strand of libertarian interventionism in the Labour Party and a number of Labour MPs may still be willing to vote with the government. Jeremy Corbyn is also unlikely to garner the same sense of loyalty as Ed Miliband, increasing the chance of a bigger rebellion against him.
This is not the only issue though as Cameron will also struggle to carry his whole parliamentary party with him as well. Previously Tory rebels voted against the plans and helped to defeat the government. This problem is unlikely to have gone away. The big question is whether the number of Tory rebels is bigger than the number of Labour MPs willing to support action.
The government has been exploring this option for a while now, but has been tentative about putting forward any definitive plans. The fact this is now being pretty strongly floated across the media shows the government now plans to force a vote in the next few weeks and are confident they now have the votes. Another vote is inevitable and this time Cameron and the government will win this vote. There will be Tory rebels, but there will be more Labour MPs willing to support the government. This will give Cameron the majority he needs.
Europe is in the midst of one of the gravest humanitarian crises’ of recent years. Thousands of refugees are entering Europe on a monthly basis, many of whom are coming from war torn countries further afield such as Syria. Currently Britain has only taken 216 refugees from Syria, leading to widespread criticism that the country should be doing more. This appears to have fallen on deaf ears though with David Cameron indicating a change in policy is not likely.
The first key distinction to make is that refugees are not the same as economic migrants. Refugees do not leave their country for economic purposes but move due to concerns about human rights and safety. Therefore although these issues are often intertwined, it is important to note the differences between a refugee and a migrant.
According to recent polls migration is now the biggest issue of concern to voters in the UK. The powerful anti-migration lobby in this country led by certain aspects of the right wing press has created quite a storm about migration in recent weeks with several misleading headlines. The refugee crisis appears to have got lost in this and the government appear scared about what the reaction would be should they take in more refugees.
Other countries in Europe are therefore bearing the brunt of this crisis. This is not fair or acceptable. A suitable agreement should have been reached across Europe that each country would take their fair share of refugees and there should be ongoing conversations on this issue. Local councils across the country have been stepping forward in recent days offering to take more refugees in an effort to put pressure on the government, but the reality is that it should not have reached this stage.
The government is right to state that taking in more and more refugees on a permanent basis is not the long term solution. In the long term there needs to be diplomatic and political solutions in the countries the refugees are fleeing from. However this is a long term process and in the short term these refugees need to be housed and looked after, hence the need for Britain to take more refugees.
The British government does have a duty to do more. These refugees are coming from horrific situations where they are fleeing for their lives. All countries have a responsibility to step up and help out. This includes Britain. Our response has been pitiful and needs to change. It is time for our government to lead.