Those green benches the scene of many a fierce debate in the hallowed house, was now the scene of another contest titanic struggle on thorny issue. The issue was war. To go to war or not to go to war, that was the question.
The PM was the first to rise to the dispatch box.
“I’m sure many of you have been shocked and sickened by the horrific images of slaughter and carnage that we see in our TV screens. I’m sure many of you were also shocked by the barbarity of the attacks that were carried out without mercy. This nefarious group who I will categorically refuse to dignify in this house with their name have made no secret their murderous aims and left unchecked they could unleash their madness upon our shores.
Surely now the time for debate is over,
Surely now the time has come for action.
Surely now is the time to strike.
Mr speaker, I put the proposal before the house of military action, of striking at the heart of this implacable enemy, to degrade and destroy and wipe out this poisonous plague that poses a threat to our security, our very way of life.”
He sat down to the raucous sound of wall that surrounded him from the benches behind him acclaiming their support.
The leader of the opposition straightened his tie as he stood and walked to the dispatch box.
‘Mr speaker, my honourable friend speaks eloquently in this chamber in favour of military action and yes I was similarly shocked and sickened by the barbaric attacks perpetrated by that heinous group but as a responsible leader of the opposition, my job is to examine the prime minister’s plans. What I have heard and what I have read raises many questions.
First of all, what form of intervention does the right honourable gentleman propose we take? After the end of long protracted conflicts that still live fresh in the memory, do we have a serious appetite to once again commit our brave men and women into another potentially long and dangerous theatre. So if boots on the ground is off the table, is it an air campaign the right honourable member proposes? An air campaign to strike at an enemy known to hide amongst a civilian population would have a horrendous cost in life. If we survived the Blitz with stoic defiance, then surely can’t our foes? Blanket bombing is similarly barbaric and in a war without uniforms, there can truly be no precise strikes.
Also what kind of country do we leave behind us? Our past interventions have been deficient in planning for a post conflict world. Toppled dictators left a vacuum often filled by even more odious characters. Do we have a plan for peace, a plan to create a just society from the ashes we rain down? Will all the Queen’s planes and all the queen’s men truly put the country together again?’
The last remark prompted hear hears from back benchers on his side.
The leader closed his speech without any notes, throwing the paper to one side.
“Tonight each of you on both sides of the house must vote with your conscience. In a world where heinous acts are committed seemingly without conscience, we must not neglect ours. We must not, blinded by anger, run headlong into a dangerous situation without a proper plan of how we similarly exit after the guns fall silent. Our security depends not only on our action but the manner of our action and the consequences of said action. Let that be on our consciences also.”
They rose from those green leather benches and walked towards the voting lobby. Their 650 votes the difference between war and peace, life and death. A hell of a thing to weigh on the conscience.