UK military action against ISIL / Daesh

This is the full text of an email sent by Karin Smyth MP to Bristol South Labour Party members on the morning of Monday 30 November 2015:

I am writing this as I leave for London after a weekend spent talking with constituents and with Labour Party members about the likelihood of a vote in the next few days to extend UK military action to help defeat ISIL/Daesh.

Thank you to everyone who has given me their views, in conversation or in writing. I have read and reflected on all the e-mails I have received, and I wanted to take the opportunity to outline my current thinking.

My weekend reflections followed last Thursday’s House of Commons debate on the issue. I attended the Prime Minister’s statement, listened carefully to Jeremy’s response and all of the lengthy debate that followed.

I expect the vote, when it comes, to be conducted on a free vote for Labour MPs. It needs to be pointed out, I think, that the Motion on which the Commons will be asked to vote has not yet been published. Its wording will of course be central to my decision on which way to vote.

I am clear that the recent United Nations Motion meets one of four key elements of the motion passed at this year’s Labour Party conference. I also believe that the others have been met by the current proposal: a comprehensive European Union-wide plan to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees; directing bombing exclusively at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ rather than being aimed at securing regime change in Syria; and that any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts to bring the Syrian civil war to an end.

For me not to support a United Nations Motion, to support our allies in combatting evil, would be a huge reversal of my own long and deeply held principles of internationalism. The finely balanced judgment I and other MPs have to make is whether the action proposed will make the situation in Syria better or worse for those who live there, and whether it can succeed in reducing the clear threat we face from ISIL/Daesh here in the UK.

I shall be reflecting further on the matter over the coming days, further considering the evidence that has been presented. If you have not yet had the chance to give me your considered opinion please do so by  emailing

At the foot of this email I have provided links to some relevant documents: I fully appreciate that, whilst this topic has dominated the news for a few days, most people will have been too busy to read all the key documents.

I will continue to consider all views, alongside those of my MP colleagues, many of whom have experience and knowledge of the region, as the next steps are shaped in the UK’s approach. This is a vital matter affecting the UK’s national interest. I am sure you agree we need to tackle the serious threat we all face from ISIL/Daesh, and welcome your thoughts on how this should be achieved.

With best wishes

Karin Smyth MP

Some useful links:

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee October 2015 report, The extension of offensive British military operations to Syria

The Prime Minister’s written response to the above report

The full debate in the House of Commons, Thursday 26 November