In the last couple of days, young people have been coming up to me in the street and asking in an accusing way: “Oi, Boris, why did you vote for war?” And I try as ever to explain that I was not voting for war. There currently is a war that is taking place in Syria.
That bestial conflict has already claimed a quarter of a million lives. I was voting to stop the war. I was voting for peace. “Yeah,” they say, “but what about the bombing? What about all the innocent people who will die? It will be their blood on your hands.”
To which I respond that innocent lives are being lost now: tens of thousands of people butchered just because they are women, or disabled, or gay, or because they belong to the wrong strand of Islam. I don’t want to have them on my conscience, and I don’t want these sickos from Daesh/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) to continue to exult in their so‑called caliphate, and to be allowed indefinitely to promote their terrorist campaigns.
When the House of Commons finally gave the go-ahead for air strikes last week, no one cheered; no one even hear-heared. No one is approaching this with the slightest sense of jingo or enthusiasm. We want to get on with whatever is the best and fastest way to bring peace to Syria. And since we all know that cannot be achieved by bombing alone, we need to think much more creatively about the coalition we could build.
That brings us to Vladimir Putin. I was in Paris at the end of last week, and the Russian leader’s face glowered sulkily from every billboard. “Poutin”, said the headline, “Notre nouvel ami”. Many French people think the time has come to do a deal with their new friends the Russians – and I think that they are broadly right.
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