There can be no doubt that the heart-wrenching scenes emerging from Iraq and Syria demand urgent western action. How can we stand by as children are beheaded by ISIL because they refuse to renounce Jesus? What civilised nation would not act - and act with urgency - to stop this humanitarian catastrophe?
Yet we in Britain risk being left behind. America and France are engaged in military action in Iraq. They are at this moment saving civilians’ lives. So why is that we are not doing so as well? The answer seems to be that despite the shambolic Syria vote in Parliament last year, the Prime Minister is apparently determined to secure a Parliamentary vote prior to any action. That of course is delayed because Parliament has broken up for the Party Conference Recess and because there are all sorts of workmen carrying out essential maintenance in the Palace of Westminster.
Hang on a minute. Are we really delaying action to save children’s lives so as not to interrupt Mr Miliband’s gripping rhetoric at the Labour Party Conference, and to accommodate some decorators in the chamber of the House of Commons? Surely not.
The reality is that this populist call for Parliament to vote on every single military action around the world is seriously misjudged. The Prime Minister of course needs the support and backing of Parliament for it. If he did not have that, he would not survive as PM for very long.
But I do not believe that he should be delegating the awesome responsibility of committing the country to war to backbench MPs in this way. We backbenchers do not have the secret intelligence necessary to know whether air strikes, ground action, containment, or destruction is best. We do not have access to the strategic analysis nor technical information we need to come to this kind of decision. We do not have the legal advice as to whether or not airstrikes, for example, are justifiable and allowable under international law. So how can we come to a clear and correct decision to allow us to vote on the matter?
As the PM accepts his seals of office, he is also accepting the awful responsibility of committing our armed forces to war. He must bear that responsibility personally, albeit always taking Parliament with him. There have been only two exceptions to that over hundreds of years of history. The first was in 2003 when Tony Blair sought camouflage for his illegal invasion of Iraq from a Parliamentary vote; the second was last year with the Syria vote. Neither inspires us with any confidence about Parliamentary votes on going to war.
We don’t want a vote on going to war: we want statesmanlike leadership from the Prime Minister on it.