Only few weeks before the Paris murders, we held a debate in this Chamber to take note of the humanitarian impact of developments in the Middle East and north Africa. Whatever our individual views, it was clear to all contributors that there was no plan of sufficient scale to combat the tide of humanity fleeing conflict. All we could do was disagree about the scale of our own compassion and welcome. But while we had the luxury of safely debating where our responsibilities lie, three year-old Alan Kurdi was just one of dozens who had been found lying dead on the beach. Desperate families were escaping Syria in their millions only to face the razor wire fences of a hostile Europe. If we cannot agree to embrace those displaced by conflict, do we have the right to contribute to it? I ask the noble Earl whether, if as expected the other place supports the Prime Minister’s call to bomb Syria, we can expect a shift in our refugee policy, in order that we might reach out to those who will, as we add our firepower to the existing violence, leave Syria in ever greater numbers.
In our press and in both Houses of Parliament, we talk of radicalisation, jihadis and terrorists, terms that elevate murderers and wannabes from the ordinary to the anti-heroic. Meanwhile, we carelessly ignore the alienated among us. In the political wrangling in the other place, the divisions in the Opposition and a 24-hour news cycle obsessed by the numerical chances of winning a vote, we have failed to win the battle for hearts and minds at home. Those who perpetrated this mass murder were brought up in the suburbs of Paris and Brussels, just as the 7/7 bombers were brought up in the suburbs of UK cities. We have a battle to win at home, in which our weapons are our commitment to equality, freedom and humanity—weapons that we need to put at the forefront of our response right now. ISIL uses a distorted version of faith to ply its criminal trade and we need to provide an alternative narrative.
This morning, the Prime Minister seemed to suggest that there would be either air strikes or inaction. That is not so. The trail of oil, money and arms must be broken. The newly invigorated diplomatic work started in Vienna must be pursued with the certainties that we hear today for bombing. A generous response to the refugee crises must be found, not only for orphan children. A zero-tolerance attitude to the abuse of British Muslims must be vocal, loud and proud. These are the actions—intractable and hard as they are—that speak of our values and of who we are.
As outraged as we are at the senseless murders in Paris, there is no strategic difference this month from last. If we had no appetite for war on
I am very sorry; I am out of time. Finally, I say to the Prime Minister that this is not a sports field. Calling those who oppose this war “terrorist sympathisers” is an outrage for which he should publicly and abjectly apologise.