Syria crisis: The British public has its say as two-thirds oppose strikes

Exclusive poll for The Independent sends clear message as David Cameron resists pressure for second vote

The Iraq War has turned the British public against any military intervention in the Middle East, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent.

By a margin of two-to-one, the British people oppose President Barack Obama’s plan for military strikes against the Assad regime and say that the UK should keep out of all conflicts in the region for the foreseeable future.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg yesterday rejected growing all-party pressure from MPs and peers for another Commons vote on whether British forces should join air strikes in Syria, only four days after MPs rejected the Prime Minister’s plan to take part.

But Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said the Government could revisit the question if circumstances changed “very significantly”.

Opinion at Westminster appears to be shifting in favour of action as the Obama administration produces more evidence about the horrific chemical weapons attack on a suburb near Damascus.

But Mr Cameron shows no signs of risking a second humiliating Commons defeat. Labour will not propose a second vote unless there is a “very significant” change, such as al-Qa’ida obtaining chemical weapons in Syria.

The ComRes survey suggests that MPs were right, at least according to public opinion, to veto air strikes by Britain last Thursday.

It found that only 29 per cent of people agree that the US, without Britain, should launch air strikes against the Assad regime to deter it from using chemical weapons in future, while 57 per cent disagree.

Four out of five people (80 per cent) believe that any military strikes against Syria should first be sanctioned by the United Nations, while 15 per cent disagree with this statement.

Asked whether the experience of the 2003 Iraq war means that Britain should keep out of military conflicts in the Middle East for the foreseeable future, 62 per cent agree and 31 per cent disagree.

A majority of supporters of every party agree with this statement, with Labour and UK Independence Party voters more likely to believe Britain should “keep out” than Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters.

Older people are more likely to agree with this principle than younger people. Almost three in four (73 per cent) of those aged 65 and over believe the UK should “keep out”, while among 18 to 34-year-olds, the figure is 57 per cent.

After his Commons rebuff, a majority of people (54 per cent) agree that David Cameron showed he is “out of touch with Britain” in his handling of the Syria crisis, while 34 per cent disagree. Worryingly for the Prime Minister, a third of current Tory supporters (33 per cent) and almost half of voters overall (42 per cent) believe Mr Cameron showed he is out of touch, as do 76 per cent of Ukip supporters.

According to ComRes, Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has risen from three to six points since last month.  Labour is unchanged on 37 per cent, the Conservatives on 31 per cent (down three points), the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent (up two points), Ukip 10 per cent (down two points) and others 10 per cent (up two points).

These figures would give Labour a majority of 78 if repeated at the next general election.

The Liberal Democrats are ahead of Ukip for the first time since last December, as Nigel Farage’s party slips without the publicity it achieved after the May local elections.

As some Labour MPs called for a rethink over British participation in strikes against Syria, Mr Hammond told the Commons it was “a bit rich” for them to do so after voting against military action last week.

Ben Bradshaw, a Labour former Cabinet minister, accused the Government of forcing a rushed decision without presenting the evidence about the chemical weapons attack that was available in Washington. 

Andrew Mitchell, the Tory former International Development Secretary, said: “It may be, after lengthy and careful consideration, [the US] Congress affirms its support for the President’s plans and, in the light of that, our Parliament may want to consider this matter further.”

But Mr Cameron’s spokesman said:  “Parliament has spoken and that is why the Government has absolutely no plans to go back to Parliament.”

Downing Street indicated that Britain does not  expect its military bases – such as RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus, less than 200 miles from Syria – to be used in any air strikes.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, dampened hopes of a re-think by Ed Miliband when he spoke to the Parliamentary Labour Party last night.

ComRes interviewed 1,000 British adults by telephone between 30 August and 1 September. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manage...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service Engineer - Doors / Windows

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist designer and ma...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn