THERESA May’s support for air strikes in Syria was gesture politics at its most cynical.

Britain likes to present itself as a moral guardian of international affairs, and rightly pours scorn on mavericks such as Putin when they show disregard for the rules of the game. But there is a huge gulf between the high mindedness of Mrs May’s justification for air strikes and the practical help we have given to the men, women and children going through hell on the streets of Damascus, Aleppo and Raqqa.

In fairness to Mrs May, she was right to say that the international community must “not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons”. But anyone following the war in Syria will know that chemical weapons are a tiny part of the story. Conventional arms, hunger, shattered infrastructure and disease are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives, with impunity, while the Western powers barely lift a finger for fear of provoking Putin.

Half of Syria’s 22 million people have been uprooted by a conflict that has lasted longer than the Second World War. Sweden, Canada, Austria and Germany have shown great humanity in taking way more than their fair share of refugees, while France and Great Britain have sheltered a relative handful.

Firing a few rockets, in a gesture strong enough to let Macron, Trump and May sleep easier at night but weak enough not to provoke the Russians, was shameful when you think how the money wasted on that ordnance could have been used to house, clothe and bring medical aid to people literally dying for our help.