I write this article having come out of the House of Commons chamber during the debate on whether Parliament should authorise the Government to undertake military airstrikes in Syria.
Parliament will have voted on this matter by the time you read this article, and it may well be the case that RAF jets are over the skies of Syria, carrying out attacks designed to degrade and destroy the capability of ISIL to inflict terror.
Such matters are never easy. It is always a matter of individual conscience, weighing up the evidence and making a decision based upon your judgment.
No MP I know, regardless of party affiliation, takes these matters flippantly.
Westminster has been a grave and serious place, as MPs consider whether it is right to send British military capability, with brave British servicemen and women, ready at a moment’s notice to defend our country, to carry out airstrikes in Syria.
In so doing, I also have to be mindful that the lives of British pilots and their crews are not the only ones to be laid on the line on the basis of what Parliament decides.
Will civilians in Syria be killed as a result of our decision?
Does our involvement increase or reduce the threat posed by ISIL on the streets of Britain or for British citizens around the world?
This is not easy.
I am not a pacifist. I believe that military intervention is necessary at times.
I also don’t want Britain to shirk its international responsibilities and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our close neighbour and ally, France, following the appalling attacks on the streets of Paris on Friday the 13th of November.
First and foremost, I want to eliminate the threat that ISIL poses to Britain and our way of life.
These are not religious idealists, they are murderous thugs, intent on beheading and crucifying their own people, or throwing women or gay men from the tops of buildings.
Yet, after weighing up the evidence, listening to the Prime Minister’s words both on Thursday and today and receiving a briefing from the Foreign, Defence and Home Secretaries and national security advisers, I will oppose the motion to approve military airstrikes in Syria.
There are several key reasons why I cannot support military intervention on this occasion.
First, I think more can be done to push for non-military action, particularly in terms of economic sanctions, choking off ISIL’s ability to sell oil and therefore get cash to fund its terrorist activities, as well as pushing for a peaceful solution through negotiations in Vienna.
Of course ISIL won’t be part of the negotiations, but my second reason for not supporting military action is my judgment that this is a civil war. Addressing the political vacuum in Syria is a significant part of the solution.
My third concern is the Prime Minister’s assertion that there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ ground troops ready to compliment the international air strikes. This seems wobbly at best.
I have been given no information as to how this 70,000 figure is made up, nor how credible the assessment of these people as moderates actually is.
What happens if we strike down ISIL but through active encouragement of some extremists as part of a ground army, we unleash something just as evil? A ground army is necessary, peopled by troops solely from Muslim countries, to defeat ISIL and establish a credible and peaceful government in Syria but I have serious doubts that this supposed force of 70,000 is the answer.
And finally, the Prime Minister has not been able to provide an exit strategy. How do we extract ourselves from this in a peaceful way? If we don’t learn the lessons of history, we end up repeating them.
I have received in the region of about 750 emails about this matter this week. I am grateful to all constituents who have contacted me about this matter, especially those who wrote their own emails, reflecting their feelings and concerns.
Following the writing of this article, I will go back into the House of Commons to listen further to the debate.
But my mind has been clear on this for several days and weeks and moving to an inevitable conclusion. I do not support British military intervention in Syria.