Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee tells The News why he rebelled on Syria
Published: 4 Sep 2013 09:301 comment
Dr Lee was one of 30 Conservative politicians to rebel against his own leader David Cameron by voting against military involvement by Britain.
The debate in the House of Commons last Thursday was prompted by allegations that Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a chemical attack near Damascus on August 21, killing up to 1,300 people.
The claims are being investigated by United Na-tions weapons inspectors.
The Coalition Govern-ment’s motion calling for military action in Syria was defeated by 285 votes to 272. This was despite the Prime Minister being forced to agree that a separate, second vote would have to be needed to specifically authorise Britain’s involvement in any air strikes along with the US.
Dr Lee told the Midweek: “I was not convinced at all that what was being proposed would have a good outcome. That is not to say I am a pacifist.
“If someone had come with a coherent strategy and said we need to commit 10,000 troops I could have been persuaded to have troops on the ground.
“But my feeling was it wasn’t the right intervention to solve the problem.”
Dr Lee said he cut short his holiday to attend the debate and was disappointed he was not called on to make a speech.
He said: “I sprinted through passport control to arrive by 2.30pm. I made a very concerted effort to be there and hoped to be called by the Speaker but I wasn’t called. I formulated ideas on my way back and the speech was about how we needed a clear strategy. We should not be reactive but proactive.
“Quite a few who didn’t speak ended up rebelling.”
Dr Lee was allowed to question Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg during the debate – and asked what exactly “direct British involvement” referred to. He said: “If the Americans chose to attack this weekend and used, say, Akrotiri, the base in Cyprus, would that be an indirect involvement by this country?
“I ask because, if the Syrians then targeted it with a Scud missile in the proceeding days, we might be drawn into the conflict.”
Mr Clegg replied: “Direct action would mean the UK taking part in any strikes designed in an American-led military operation.”
Dr Lee reiterated his decision was a purely personal one. He said: “It had nothing to do with politics or the position of David Cameron as leader of the party – it was a decision I took by myself.”
Wokingham MP John Redwood and Windsor MP Adam Afriyie, whose constituency includes Ascot, Warfield and Binfield, had both spoken out against military involvement in the Syrian civil war before the debate but did not vote in the Commons debate.
When asked why he was absent from the debate, a spokesman for Mr Afriyie said: “Mr Afriyie felt that he could not support premature attribution.”
l Dr Lee is holding a question and answer session at Finchampstead Memorial Hall, in The Village, at 7.30pm tomorrow (Thursday).