An update on Labour's position on the situation in Libya from Jim Murphy MP, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary:
After last night’s vote on supporting the UN resolution on Libya I wanted to set out our Party's position.
The vote in the House of Commons was 557 to 13 and I know that MPs on both sides of the debate came to their decision after great care and reflection. During the almost seven hours of debate there was real passion, enquiry and concern, but the overwhelming sense was of a responsibility to protect the Libyan people from their own government’s actions.
No one could have been anything other than stunned by the ferocity of Gaddafi's attacks on his own people. We all shuddered at the sight of tanks surrounding the city of Benghazi, a city of 700,000 people, and Gaddafi threatening the population with "no mercy, and no pity”. As internationalists we have both the responsibility and the opportunity to help enforce international law and save innocents from slaughter.
During the debate Ed Miliband set out Labour's position eloquently when he said that “the three key criteria for action exist: it is a just cause with a feasible mission and has international support. We are acting to protect the Libyan people, to save lives and to prevent the Gaddafi regime from committing serious crimes against humanity.”
We have a responsibility to act. There is clear evidence that Colonel Gaddafi has been brutalising his own people in response to their demands for democratic change. We know that many will ask ‘Why Libya and not other countries?’ It is a fair challenge, but our belief is that just because you can’t do the right thing everywhere doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the right thing anywhere. The international community through the UN has made a very clear and robust commitment.
Inaction would have undermined the cause of freedom not just for the hundreds of thousands of people who have risen up against Gaddafi in Libya, but in other countries where people are also fighting for change.
Labour will support the Government where possible, but we will also scrutinise. There are four principal areas Ed Miliband, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, myself and the Shadow Cabinet will focus on:
There will be relief in the streets of Benghazi that the international community has acted, but there will also be anxiety in Britain, particularly in the homes of Service families. Our thoughts should be with all British Forces around the world, including the more than 10,000 Britons in Afghanistan. Those undertaking courageous acts in the sky above Libya and in the Mediterranean should be given all the support they need because their bravery is what enables the UN resolution to be enforced and the Libyan people to be protected.