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Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Giving the public a chance to voice their opinion could be the only way to improve the NHS (Independent)

No politician is allowed to pledge a penny of extra spending on any cause, notes Steve Richards.

2. Salmond is wrong. England is not the enemy (Times)

The nationalists paint the rest of the UK as right-wing and Ukippy, writes Hugo Rifkind. It’s actually a tolerant and multicultural nation.

3. Cost-of-living masks Labour ideas crisis (Financial Times)

The wisest thing the UK opposition could do is outline the spending cuts it would make in power, says Janan Ganesh.

4. Can no one in Britain be trusted to run an election campaign? (Daily Telegraph)

We are led by politicians who have become so beholden to the mechanics of politics that they must look abroad for their vision and their credibility, writes Benedict Brogan.

5. Obama’s Asia policy is ambiguous (Financial Times)

The rise of China is the big strategic challenge facing the US and should focus its attention, writes Gideon Rachman.

6. Sorry students, I lied to you. University is about desperation, not aspiration (Guardian)

The graduate premium is going down as tuition fees and debt go up: but for today's students that's just the tip of the iceberg, says Laurie Penny.

7. Stamp duty is worse than a mansion tax (Times)

George Osborne taxes people who move house more than smokers, writes Ross Clark. It’s bad for the economy.

8. Where would you rather live – Great Britain or little England? (Guardian)

If you agree that Britain is better off in the EU, make yourself heard now, says Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems can't win this argument alone.

9. Scots are not morally superior. That's why I believe in solidarity with the folk living south of Carlisle (Guardian)

Whatever the Scottish separatists claim, our shared beliefs in equality and social justice don't stop at the border, says Tom Morton. 

10. Restoring trust in the European parliament (Financial Times)

Europe’s assembly must act to tackle its internal abuses, says an FT editorial. 

Photo: Getty Images
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I'll vote against bombing Isis - but my conscience is far from clear

Chi Onwurah lays out why she'll be voting against British airstrikes in Syria.

I have spent much of the weekend considering how I will vote on the question of whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/Isis from Iraq to Syria, seeking out and weighing the evidence and the risks.

My constituents have written, emailed, tweeted, facebooked or stopped me in the street to share their thoughts. Most recognised what a difficult and complex decision it is. When I was selected to be the Labour candidate for Newcastle Central I was asked what I thought would be the hardest part of being an MP.

I said it would be this.

I am not a pacifist, I believe our country is worth defending and our values worth fighting for. But the decision to send British Armed Forces into action is, rightly, a heavy responsibility.

For me it comes down to two key questions. The security of British citizens, and the avoidance of civilian casualties. These are separate operational and moral questions but they are linked in that it is civilian casualties which help fuel the Daesh ideology that we cannot respect and value the lives of those who do not believe as we do. There is also the important question of solidarity with the French in the wake of their grievous and devastating loss; I shall come to that later.

I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister as he set out the case for airstrikes on Thursday and I share his view that Daesh represents a real threat to UK citizens. However he did not convince me that UK airstrikes at this time would materially reduce that threat. The Prime Minister was clear that Daesh cannot be defeated from the air. The situation in Syria is complex and factionalised, with many state and non-state actors who may be enemies of our enemy and yet not our friend. The Prime Minister claimed there were 70,000 ground troops in the moderate Free Syrian Army but many experts dispute that number and the evidence does not convince me that they are in a position to lead an effective ground campaign. Bombs alone will not prevent Daesh obtaining money, arms and more recruits or launching attacks on the UK. The Prime Minister did not set out how we would do that, his was not a plan for security and peace in Syria with airstrikes a necessary support to it, but a plan to bomb Syria, with peace and security cited in support of it. That is not good enough for me.

Daesh are using civilian population as human shields. Syrians in exile speak of the impossibility of targeting the terrorists without hitting innocent bystanders. I fear that bombing Raqqa to eliminate Daesh may be like bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas – hugely costly in terms of the civilian population and ultimately ineffectual.

Yet the evil that Daesh perpetrate demands a response. President Hollande has called on us to join with French forces. I lived in Paris for three years, I spent time in just about every location that was attacked two weeks ago, I have many friends living in Paris now, I believe the French are our friends and allies and we should stand and act in solidarity with them, and all those who have suffered in Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Tunisia and around the world.

But there are other ways to act as well as airstrikes. Britain is the only G7 country to meet its international development commitments, we are already one of the biggest humanitarian contributors to stemming the Syrian crisis, we can do more not only in terms of supporting refugees but helping those still in Syria, whether living in fear of Daesh or Assad. We can show the world that our response is to build rather than bomb. The Prime Minister argues that without taking part in the bombing we will not have a place at the table for the reconstruction. I would think our allies would be reluctant to overlook our financial commitment.

We can also do more to cut off Daesh funding, targeting their oil wells, their revenues, their customers and their suppliers. This may not be as immediately satisfying as bombing the terrorists but it is a more effective means of strangling them.

The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes. I agree with them for the reasons I set out above. I should say that I have had no experience of bullying or attempts at intimidation in reaching this decision, Newcastle Central is too friendly, frank, comradely and Geordie a constituency for that. But some have suggested that I should vote against airstrikes to ensure a “clear conscience” ’. This is not the case. There will be more killings and innocent deaths whether there are UK airstrikes or not, and we will all bear a portion of responsibility for them.

A version of this article was originally sent to Chi Onwurah's constituents, and can be read here