On Wednesday night in the House of Commons, the overwhelming vote to extend military operations into Syria created a number of questions regarding the way in which our democracy operates. All MPs are elected as representatives of their constituents, not as delegates obliged to vote as we direct. Yet if their decisions are in contradiction to our views, the existing disconnect between the voter and representative will grow and could eventually destabilise the very basis of our Government. According to national opinion polls, the majority of us, albeit by a small margin, opposed the decision to bomb Syria taken by a substantial majority of our representatives. The picture becomes even more confused when one considers the views of the political party to which the MP belongs and which campaign for him or her to win elections. Some people primarily vote along party lines, not for the individual named on the ballot paper. Because party policy is set by a small number of people who themselves are not expected to represent our views in this process, the MP may be torn at least 3 ways in how they vote. It is rare for local MPs to have access to local opinion polls, but they do have a post bag which gives them some indication of local views, although this is further distorted by the impact of campaigning and lobbying groups.
Two Sussex MPs voted against extending military operations and 14 voted in favour, there were no abstentions. If Sussex is consistent with the rest of the country in terms of our widely held views about Syria, those of us opposed to bombing missions were poorly represented by our MPs. In percentage terms, 12.75% of Sussex MPs voted against military action and 87.25% to extend operations. It seems likely that public opinion is much closer to 50:50. Amongst the MPs two voted against the wishes of their Party leaders, Peter Kyle (Hove) and Andrew Tyrie (Chichester). No doubt both men will be expected to explain their actions to their party or party members in due course. It is perfectly reasonable for them to have formed a view that was not in line with party policy, but it is equally reasonable for the party members to feel disappointed that they did so. If this disappointment has spilled over into waving placards and sending photographs, although that may have upset the MPs, they do need to consider how else party members could express their deeply held views. Bombing another nation is not a minor issue. What is much more concerning than the actions of party members is how to improve the link between Parliamentary votes and the views of local residents? This is an issue of concern to all of us.