Martin Hannan: Free vote can’t prevent a war

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At last Jeremy Corbyn has shown he has a mind of his own. It appears the Labour leader decided not to impose his will on the party’s MPs and force them to vote against air strikes in Syria.

Had he done so, there would have been utter mayhem in Labour ranks. Resignations from the shadow cabinet were certain, and those MPs who have been working behind the scenes to denigrate Corbyn would have openly opposed him. As it happens, I feel it will be just a matter of time before his leadership is challenged.

Corbyn has the legitimacy conferred by his election as leader, which, need I remind you, was in a very divisive but ultimately very decisive vote. He has also been a consistent anti-war campaigner all his life, so his stance so far has been admirable – and his decision to allow a free vote is correct.

Forget all the guff about standing by our allies, the United States and France. This decision is about whether Britain should still be acting as a world police force. I believe it should not, at least not at this time.

War – for that is what we are being asked to wage – should not be a matter of party policy determined by just one person. This is a moral issue that must be decided on grounds of conscience, not by whether a political party will win or lose a few votes at the next UK election.

There is only one moral approach to the decision about bombing the so-called Islamists in Syria. All the parties in the House of Commons should give their MPs a free vote on the issue.

This is such a massive matter in the life of this British state that only a free vote will engender the confidence of the people that their political masters at least acted out of conscience.

As an SNP member, I hope my party votes against air strikes on Syria, but I will not condemn any SNP MP who votes in favour of air strikes out of a conscientious feeling that it is the right thing to do.

My personal misgivings are because there are just too many questions which David Cameron has not answered and indeed cannot answer.

What is the chain of command? Will British jets bomb Syria on the order of American chiefs? This, I will say, just wouldn’t happen the other way around.

Who approves the targets? What will be the acceptable level of intelligence required for the RAF to end someone’s life? Is there any political control of our military once the proverbial – or not so proverbial in this case – starting gun has been fired?

How long is the UK’s commitment to bombing going to last? What steps will be taken to minimise civilian casualties?

The Russians moved quickly to rescue the surviving pilot of last week’s shooting down of their combat jet – does Britain have the same capability and is the SAS, for example, standing by on ­rescue duty?

Is it true, as has been alleged in certain pro-Tory newspapers, that we only have four or five spare aircraft that we can send to bomb Syria? If that’s the case, what’s the point of getting involved?

For once I have to agree with the Daily Mail – the case for bombing Syria has not yet been made.

Kez keeping quiet

So glad the Labour Party in Edinburgh Eastern constituency found half of the £10,000 missing from their bank account. Still not a word from Labour leader and local candidate Kezia Dugdale, though.

Royal High School and musical cheers

I carried out a survey last week of a cross section of the Edinburgh public – at least those I met in a couple of pubs I have been known to frequent.

The results were that 80% wanted the former Royal High School building to go to St Mary’s Music School and not a bunch of capitalists trying to make a public asset of this city into a luxury hotel fit only for the filthy rich.

Only one of the five people I spoke to would not give an answer – said he didn’t know enough about it.

So of the people polled, 100% were for the music school. You see? It all depends on how you ask the question.

Seeing red over bypass mayhem

Like just about everyone, I have no idea what was behind the mayhem on the bypass on Saturday night. I only know that a friend travelling from Dalkeith westwards was trapped on the A720 for well over an hour.

What it did show was how dependent we are on that damned road being passable at all times.

Is it too much to ask that the roads company, Amey, the various councils on the route and Police Scotland – yes, I know they were dealing with a very serious and indeed life-threatening incident – come up with a diversion plan that actually works?

Trams divi is a bus stopper

This City Deal business is obviously getting serious, but just how is Edinburgh council going to work honestly with its neighbouring councils in the Lothians if theCapital’s leadership demands a £25 million extraordinary dividend from Lothian Buses to help build the trams?

East, West and Midlothian between them own nine per cent of Lothian Buses. Have any of them agreed to this dividend?