Syria air strikes: MPs overwhelmingly vote in favour of bombing Isis in Syria

The Government won a higher-than-expected majority of 174 in favour of military action in Syria after marathon 10-hour debate in House of Commons

Matt Dathan
Online political reporter
Wednesday 02 December 2015 23:20 GMT
David Cameron addressing the House of Commons
David Cameron addressing the House of Commons

MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of bombing Isis in Syria after a marathon debate in the House of Commons.

RAF air strikes were launched within hours of the vote, with Tornado jets taking off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

MPs backed the Government’s motion by a comfortable margin of 397 to 223 - a higher-than-expected majority of 174.

It followed more than 10 hours of debate in the House of Commons, with 157 MPs setting out their arguments for and against extending air strikes into Syria.

David Cameron responded to the result of the vote by saying MPs had "taken the right decision to keep the UK safe", while Barack Obama said he was "looking forward" to the British joining the United States, France and the rest of the Coalition in bombing Isis in Syria.

But MPs who opposed the move reacted with dismay, with Mhairi Black describing the night as a "very dark night" and said she will "never forget the noise of some Labour and Tory [MPs] cheering together at the idea of bombs falling".

David Cameron’s success in winning such a convincing vote in favour of military owed largely to 66 Labour MPs rebelling against Jeremy Corbyn's call to oppose the air strikes to back the Government's motion.

A majority of the Shadow Cabinet backed Mr Corbyn and voted against the motion, with 11 voting in favour - lower than expected.

Meanwhile on the Tory benches there were just seven rebels, while another seven abstained.

In unprecedented scenes in the House of Commons, the Shadow Foreign Secretary received rapturous applause from MPs from across the House as he made a powerful speech explaining why he disagreed with his leader.

Mr Benn turned to the Labour benches as he made his concluding remarks minutes before the vote, telling them that Britain "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".

The speech was hailed as the "most remarkable parliamentary speeches I've heard" by former Tory cabinet minister Sir Alan Duncan, while even Labour MPs who voted against the motion praised him.

But the SNP's foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond accused the Commons Speaker John Bercow of bias by allowing Mr Benn and Foreign Secretary extra time for their summing-up speeches.

He claimed that Mr Benn's speech would have persuaded between 15 and 20 Labour MPs to back air strikes.

Mr Benn finished his speech by saying: “I hope the House will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House.

“As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another; we never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road.

“And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the international brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco; it’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini; it is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice.

“And my view, Mr Speaker, is that 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.”

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