Syria air strikes: Labour shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn makes impassioned speech supporting intervention

The MP defied his own leader to speak in favour of British intervention in Syria

Hilary Benn has been praised for “one of the truly great speeches” seen in the House of Commons after making a passionate plea for Labour MPs joining him to support air strikes in Syria.

The shadow Foreign Secretary spoke immediately before his Government counterpart as a marathon debate on British intervention drew to a close tonight.

Asking the Speaker’s permission to address Labour directly, Mr Benn said: “We must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.

”And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.“

In a speech which was delivered in scarcely more than a whisper at points to a rapt House of Commons, he told Labour MPs their party had always been “defined by internationalism”, adding: ”We never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road“.

"We are here faced by fascists,“ Mr Benn said. ”Not just their calculated brutality but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent.

"They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt.

"They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt.

“And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated…we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria and that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.”

His speech was greeted with loud applause in the chamber and widespread praise by political allies and opponents supporting the Government’s position on social media.

Speaking immediately afterwards, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond praised Mr Benn as he began his concluding remarks.

”That will go down as one of the truly great speeches made in this House of Commons,“ he said.

Mr Benn defied his own leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had condemned the Government’s strategy and urged his MPs to vote against “another ill-fated twist in this never-ending war on terror”.

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