It seemed to me to be idiotic of Parliament to adjourn for the summer on July 22nd just as the crisis in the Middle East escalated to new levels of atrocity. There were some murmurings from more astute MPs that they would look ridiculous going into recess at that point without first debating the crisis fully, and they have been proven right. Ridiculous, perhaps even negligent.
What good would it do to recall Parliament? It’s a fair question. Passing a resolution is not going to bring either conflict to a halt. But Parliament is not just a factory for legislation or a tool of the Executive, and indeed it is not on these occasions a mere debating society. Parliament represents the British people to the outside world just as much as individual MPs represent their constituents. We will never be able to defend our interests in the world if we are unable to express what they are.
We have a right to hear our MPs’ counsel in a crisis like this. That for me is the final argument against MPs like Mike Thornton who say this sort of thing:
@stucrow No point recalling just to debate There needs to be an actual, workable a & effective proposition otherwise all just hot air & spin
— Mike Thornton MP (@Mike4Eastleigh) August 5, 2014
We had some futher exchanges which got us nowhere, because Mike just can’t see the function of Parliament that I outlined above. It is better to debate an issue and be a divided House at the end of it, than to do nothing but fire off anguished Tweets or newspaper articles.
Conor Burns is calling for Parliament to be recalled:
I have emailed Mr Speaker asking for recall of Parliament to debate UK response to the massacre of Christians and other minorities in Iraq
— Conor Burns MP (@Conor_BurnsMP) August 10, 2014
I agree with him, but I’d go further. Don’t wait for the Speaker’s permission, or for the Prime Minister’s. Do it yourself, Conor. A quorum in the House of Commons is just 40 MPs. Round up that number, go to Westminster, demand access to the Chamber, and get working. If Bercow tries to bar you all, elect one of your number to take the Chair in his place and meet somewhere else if need be. The power of the House of Commons has always been exerted in the assembled persons of its members, and not at the pleasure of the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Crown, or anybody else. Assert your powers as Members, assert the power of the House of Commons. You have every right to do it, indeed it is your duty to do it.
The Kurds in northern Iraq seem to be the only force capable of resisting the Islamists on the ground. The NATO powers, a moribund alliance though they are, should be providing every assistance to them. Had John Major not taken a stand on the Kurds’ behalf in 1991, they would all have suffered the same fate the Islamists are now inflicting on other minorities in the rest of Iraq. In people like Conor Burns, and also Mike Gapes whose excellent article I’ve spotted since I started typing this, we can see that there are MPs who grasp the importance of Parliamentary action. If the government won’t act promptly to bring about a meeting of Parliament, one of them will have to provide the leadership instead.