This piece was first published in the The Sun and Conservative Home
Thursday was a tough day. I had to do 27 media engagements, which is quite a few for a nobody from Plymouth who’s been an MP for five minutes – and all for saying we needed to do more for the victims of Syria. Sometimes you stick your chin out and take what comes.
The image of Aylan Kurdi brought a visceral reality to many. The truth is that scene has been enacted hundreds if not thousands of times over the last five years, but there was not a camera to capture it.
My wife could not bear the image; the child happened to be lying lifeless in the surf in the precise body position that my two year-old daughter sleeps when I check on her at night.
What the Prime Minster has already outlined at the start of the refugee crisis is precisely right – a “comprehensive solution”, a multi-faceted approach amongst which one factor alone cannot bring success.
And we should be proud of what the Conservative Party has contributed to this effort: Military Action in Iraq that the PM attempted to get Commons clearance for Syria too, but was thwarted by a two-faced Ed Miliband, backed by a weak willed Labour Party.
I will be proud when the UK takes more refugees. But that must be just the start. We must now see a change in the debate, an uptick in action and an aggressive pursuit of the root cause.
No doubt we will be asked to consider Military Action in Syria in the Autumn. We must now see a gear change in aggression towards the group of cowards labouring under the false name of Islamic State. There are young men and women in this country – many are my friends – who for some time have wanted desperately to engage this cult face to face.
I would urge anyone who joins in the inevitable debate that follows to think long and hard before they argue under the banner of ‘our boys and girls in Foreign Fields.’
This is how we take this problem on: in Iraq in 2006-7 when US and UK Special Forces went up against al Qaeda groups killing 3,000 people a month on the streets of Bagdad, an AQ Commander at the time complained that every member of his group went to bed at night in their homes fearing that they might not wake up again.
An intelligence led, multi agency multi national man-hunting operation must be part of the Prime Minister’s “comprehensive strategy”. And lets seriously increase our support to groups currently supported by the US in Syria in whatever form they ask for our help. Mentoring, precise control of bombs and missiles, medical support and heavy weapons; we have learnt a great deal from our painful scars of Afghanistan and Iraq. But as I have always said they cannot be reasons to not get involved whilst becoming an increasingly isolated ‘soft’ power nation.
But crucially we must stand rigidly by him when the first bomb goes astray and unintended consequences arise; our Military’s strength must be matched by our resolve at home.
Please remember how you felt on Thursday morning when you saw that dead boy. Remember him when you argue for us to change our commitment to giving away 0.7% in GDP in Foreign Aid that the PM is rightly so proud of.
Remember him when you think about a ‘vanity vote’ on striking at the heart of this problem in Syria. Remember him when things don’t go our way and our disgracefully opportunistic and fickle political opposition grow louder.
And let’s make every individual who chooses the cause and flag of so-called Islamic State – however removed their link – feel their blood run cold, every time they – even think – they hear a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter with some old friends inside.