MPs approve Syrian air strikes

2 Dec 2015


Tonight, MPs have voted by 397 votes to 223 to extend RAF involvement in air strikes against ISIS/Daesh targets in Iraq into Syria. A special ten-hour debate was held in the House of Commons, with strong arguments put passionately on both sides of the House. It was a debate that cut across party lines, with a substantial number of Labour MPs supporting the government’s motion for airstrikes, as well as a small but significant number of Conservative MPs voting against. SNP members voted unanimously against airstrikes, but the government’s majority was further buttressed by unionist MPs from Northern Ireland. The Liberal Democrats were split on whether to support the motion.


It was clear at times that animosities stemming from recent comments by the Prime Minister were hanging over the debate. David Cameron was called upon several times by opposition MPs to apologise for telling a meeting of his own MPs last night that anyone voting in the no lobby would be “joining Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers.” Corbyn himself began his remarks by condemning Cameron, accusing him of demeaning the office of the Prime Minister and undermining the “seriousness” of today’s debate. The PM appeared to refuse making an explicit apology, saying only that there was “honour” in voting either way and that he respected that “governments of all political colours in this country have had to fight terrorism.”


But there was also anger among Labour MPs at their own leader and online activists, who were accused of trying to intimidate them into voting against airstrikes with threats of deselection. Labour MPs were in the end given a free vote by Corbyn, a highly unusual step on an issue of war and peace.




Key Quotes:


“Far from an attack on Islam, we are engaged in a defence of Islam, and far from a risk of radicalising British Muslims by acting, failing to act would actually be to betray British Muslims and the wider religion of Islam in its very hour of need.”


David Cameron



“Is it wrong for us here in Westminster to see a problem, pass a motion, and drop bombs, pretending we are doing something to solve it? That is what we did in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Has terrorism increased or decreased as a result of all that?”


Jeremy Corbyn



“Ultimately we will need an international coalition on the ground if this is to be successful in the long term.”


Liam Fox, Former Defence Secretary



“If we do not act, what message would that send about our solidarity with those countries that have suffered so much?”


Hilary Benn, Shadow Foreign Secretary



“The treatment... of groups such as the Yazidis, in all its horror, should surely make us unwilling to contemplate any further extension of Daesh-controlled territory. Inaction too leads to death and destruction.”


Margaret Beckett, Labour



“Without a comprehensive strategy, airstrikes will simply reinforce the West’s long term failure in the region generally at a time when there are already too many aircraft chasing too few targets.”


John Baron, Conservative



“Instead of having dodgy dossiers we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters.”


Julian Lewis, Defence Select Committee Chair



“I cannot stand in this house and castigate the Prime Minister for not taking enough refugees and for Britain not standing as tall as it should in the world... if we do not also do everything in our power to eradicate that which is the source of the terror from which people are fleeing.”


Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Leader



“With all due respect to the Prime Minister and the Government, what I think is going on here is basically a symbolic gesture to show that we are in the international community and siding with France. Of course we are all devastated by what happened in Paris, but using that as the main reason to extend our involvement is wrong.”


Yasmin Qureshi, Labour



“For one of our fast smart bombs, we could have a whole squadron of people taking down [ISIS’s] websites and stopping the communication and the contamination of the minds of young people across Western Europe, and across the rest of the world.”


Alex Salmond, SNP

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