MPs are "surprised and deeply concerned" about the UK's fight against IS. Photo: Getty
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MPs condemn the UK government role in fighting Islamic State as "strikingly modest"

A cross-party group of MPs are calling for greater action against the extremist militants.

A cross-party body of MPs are calling on the UK to do more in the fight against Islamic State (IS). They have condemned the government's role in attempting to defeat the extremist militants as "strikingly modest", and warned against it "lurching to doing nothing" because of Britain's previous failures in Iraq.

The Defence Select Committee has issued a report that has found the UK's role lacking, and recommends the government steps up its action against IS in Iraq. The report acknowledges the difficulty of fighting such a terrorist group but argues that Britain should be prepared to supply further air support, invest heavily in staff to develop a better understanding of the situation on the ground, and to help shape a realistic plan for dealing with the threat.

The committee found that Britain has only carried out 6 per cent of Coalition air strikes against the jihadists and said it was "surprised and deeply concerned" it was not doing more in the international effort to eradicate the group.

The chair of the committee, Tory MP Rory Stewart, has given a strongly-worded response to the UK's role so far in fighting IS:

The nightmare of a jihadist state establishing across Syria and Iraq has finally been realised. DAESH controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK, has contributed to the displacement of millions, destabilising and threatening neighbouring states, and providing safe-haven to an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, many dedicated to an international terrorist campaign.  Yet, the role that the UK is playing in combating it, is strikingly modest.

Visiting Iraq in December last year, the committee's MPs found only three British personnel working outside the Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq (compared with the the 400 Australians, 280 Italians and 300 Spanish). They found none on the ground with a high level of expertise in the tribes, or politics of Iraq, or a deep understanding of the Shia militia, which is involved in the fighting against IS.

However, the committee stops short at recommending the deployment of combat forces (the often-debated "boots on the ground") to the region.

Stewart added:

We must clearly acknowledge the previous failures in Iraq, and reform our approach. But that does not mean lurching to doing nothing. The UK should find a way of engaging with Iraq which is moderate, pragmatic, but energetic. There are dozens of things the UK could be doing, without deploying combat troops, to work with coalition partners to help address one of the most extreme threats that we have faced in the last twenty years.

If the number of high-profile barbaric acts committed by the extremists increases, such as the recent murder of the Jordanian pilot condemned by the PM as "sickening", the government will continue coming under greater pressure to up its game in the region.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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