Syria – Lib Dem members’ views on military intervention

by Stephen Tall on September 29, 2013

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 700 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

It’s a month ago to the day since David Cameron lost the vote in the Commons on keeping open the option of military intervention against Syria. Just a day ago, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

In the week before the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow we asked what party members thought about Syria. In the rush of conference week, we didn’t get the chance to report these at the time, and the story has moved on since then. But, for the record, here’s what you told us…

Majority opposition to any form of military-backed intervention

Thinking about the situation in Syria, here are some things that the UK Government is reported to have considered, in partnership with other countries such as France and the United States. Would you support or oppose each of the following?

  • Sending defensive military supplies, such as anti-aircraft guns, to the anti-Assad troops
    Support 24%, Oppose 56%, Don’t know 16%
  • Sending full-scale military supplies, such as tanks and heavy artillery, to the anti-Assad troops
    Support 5%, Oppose 81%, Don’t know 10%
  • Using British aircraft and missiles to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria and, if necessary, use them against aircraft and airports operated by the Assad regime
    Support 32%, Oppose 51%, Don’t know 13%
  • Using British missiles, fired from ships off the coast of Syria, against military sites inside Syria
    Support 21%, Oppose 63%, Don’t know 12%
  • Did MPs make the right decision? 64% say yes, 31% no

    On 29th August, MPs voted against Britain taking any part in military action against Syria. Do you think that was the right or wrong decision?

      33% – Right decision – Britain should keep out of any military attack on Syria

      31% – Right decision – the case for British involvement was not proven BUT Parliament should be prepared to re-consider

      26% – Wrong decision – Parliament should have kept open the option of military intervention against Syria for the future

      5% – Wrong decision – Britain should have been ready to become involved in an imminent military attack on Syria

      1% – Other

      1% – Don’t know

    Another chemical attack and opinion would’ve shifted…

    If there were further chemical weapon attacks with hundreds more Syrians killed, and there was sufficient evidence to indicate the Assad regime was responsible, would you support or oppose the British Government instructing our UN representative to vote in favour of military intervention against Syria?

      53% – Support military intervention against Syria

      29% – Oppose military intervention against Syria

      6% – Other

      9% – Don’t know

    50% would’ve wanted second Commons debate after UN inspectors report

    United Nations weapons inspectors will shortly report on whether or not a chemical attack was launched in Syria in August. If they say such weapons were used, should the UK parliament hold a new debate to decide how to respond?

      50% – Yes, Parliament should hold a debate

      39% – No, there is no need for a new debate

      7% – Don’t know

    Narrow support for missile strikes – under specific conditions

    If there were a new Commons debate following the UN inspectors’ report, would you vote to support or oppose prosecuting missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria?

      10% – Support missile strikes

      39% – Support missile strikes BUT only if specific conditions were to be met (see question below)

      38% – Oppose missile strikes

      9% – Don’t know

    (And here are those conditions)

    These options were open only to the 39% of members who answered ‘Support missile strikes BUT only if specific conditions were to be met’.

    On which of the following specific conditions would your support for missile strikes be dependent?

      83% – Sufficient evidence is found by UN inspectors of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime

      83% – The Government sets out clear and achievable outcomes of intervention

      79% – Parliament approves military intervention

      55% – The United Nations security council approves military intervention

      8% – Other

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 696 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 13th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
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  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.