Thursday, 26 November 2015

SNP up and down the hill on Syria

My Daily Record column today
Jeremy Corbyn’s not the only politician exposed in the searchlights over Syria. 

On an issue as serious as war, Nicola Sturgeon began showing leadership worthy of the Grand Old Duke of York.

Trapped in no-man’s land between being on the right side of the  party activist base and the wrong side of public opinion, the SNP’s spin operation was uncharacteristically skittish.

First Alex Salmond, the party’s Foreign Affairs spokesman and hefty voice in the party, ruled out backing for UK airstrikes. So far so predictable.

But he was countermanded by the First Minister.

She was “prepared to listen” to the case for airstrikes.

Westminster leader Angus Robertson held that line on Sunday morning. He sounded more sceptical by Wednesday.

Then up popped his colleague Stewart Hosie, party deputy leader, saying “at the very least” UN support would be needed for the SNP to back UK action.

Everyone knows there will be no UN security council motion approving air strikes. China and Russia would veto that simply to keep the UK out of the conflict.

Then, on the same day as the First Minister handcuffed her leadership to the sinking stock of Natalie McGarry, she sharpened the position.

“It has got to be action that is right, that will make a positive difference, rather than make the situation worse,” said Sturgeon.

This was beginning to sound like war policy driven by opinion polling.

It may be with the world on a knife edge after a Cold War skirmish that downed a Russian jet that public opinion, hardened by the Paris attacks, has cooled again.

Cameron makes the case for war today, but aren’t we at war in Syria, anyway?

A Freedom of Information request reveals the UK has flown 196 armed drone missions over Syria in the last year, with no civilian casualties the MoD insist.

We have special forces on the ground, RAF pilots flying with Nato allies, a Royal Navy frigate escorting the French carrier,  with our Cyprus airbase and  surveillance and refuelling facilities on call. 

Though the SNP do try to overstate their importance in Commons vote  when it comes to bombing ISIS, Downing Street calculates nationalist votes will be irrelevant.

From Cameron’s point of view, the most important minority votes are these of the eight Democratic Unionist Party MPs.

They’re on board, and we’re well down the road to war in Syria.

We've been expecting you, Mr Monaghan

The SNP’s Paul Monaghan MP might not be paranoid, but it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get him.

With MI5 on high alert for a jihadi attack the Caithness MP thought the best use spy time was to ask if he was subject to personal surveillance?

In the Home Office written answer (they cost £164 on average) the spooks hilariously refused to confirm or deny what they were up to. 

Poor Paul, he’ll have to keep looking over his shoulder, though I suspect James Bond has better things to do.

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