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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
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: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee