Despite the poor press over the summer holiday about Ed Miliband lacking leadership it is clear that the events of the last 48 hours have proven otherwise.
A true test of character is how you deal with a crisis and this one is perhaps the most testing so far. In part because of the significance of intervention but also because of the international ramifications of the decisions made. It is also in stark contrast with some previous leaders who have held – in my mind wrongly – strongly interventionist policies on Foreign Affairs and who got burnt. The lesson it seems eerily reminiscent in some senses this week.
Ed has a strong sense of purpose despite his detractor’s and it isn’t one which he feels necessary to trumpet in an overt manner. It was noticed by many yesterday that many tweets from Cameron concerning National Security and on procedure were not just coming from the Number10 twitter feed but also his party political account; it was clear Cameron was building momentum. I noted that we learnt of important materials via this medium, before as I understand, MPs of all sides had even been briefed. I felt it was clear that Cameron wanted a firm motion to give permission for an immediate strike. He was bouncing Parliament, his own Party and more importantly the British public into an outcome. It failed.
Contrast with Ed Miliband who remained calm and collected on consulting with colleagues on the best course. Considered he indicated a clear position to little fanfare late yesterday afternoon and the impact was immediate. Labour may indeed support further action on the despised and disgraced Assad regime but not before the full publication of the UN Report from inspectors gives a firm account of whether or not a chemical attack did actually occur. If further proof can be provided about the security and validity of information, coupled with international support this may indeed require military intervention. Labour has not ruled out intervention; just not rushed intervention. I couldn’t care a jot whether this nuanced position plays well in the polls or not; it is the right thing to do.
Despite the right now clamoring on Miliband for embarrassing Obama and looking weak. this is no more a left v right argument than in previous conflicts. This is about evidence-based decision making on the most important aspect of politics; whether we send our troops in harms way. The Labour position on no blank cheque for conflict contrasts with in my mind the perception that Cameron may have committed Britain to action whilst on the beach in Cornwall, only to find himself impeded by the real politic that he has since misjudged. A judgement the public will be watching closely given many feel he has over-reached once again.
It is also of abject concern that the Conservative-led government has refused – thus far – to publish the written legal basis for action from the Attorney General Dominic Grieve. This must be made public.
Rushing headlong into a conflict prior to UN consideration and before MPs can rightly make there own decision would be and is wrongheaded and foolish. The fact Cameron thought he could do it has been halted by Labour but also in part by Conservative backbenchers yesterday. The power of Parliament has rightly corrected an executive elite.
I find myself in agreement with a number of rebel Tory MPs, who though small in number, are speaking up; and in particular Sarah Wollaston MP who in my mind over the last six months has become the model centrist new Labour MP on so many issues in regards to public health. Many have rightly spoken to residents and I believe asked the right questions. The lessons from Iraq are clear that no party leadership can assume support for war.
That being said; rushing into saying I would not support a conflict in response to people prior to evidence being published is also wrong.
It is why if I were MP I would indicate that my position remains in line with the leadership of the Labour Party led by Ed Miliband - in that whilst reserving a natural negative judgement on conflict I would require more evidence and time. Not an easy position to take but the right one; its why I voted for him in 2010 because he stands up for the right people.