Syria air strikes: Public support falls as Parliament prepares to vote

David Cameron has called opponents of air strikes 'a bunch of terrorist sympathizers'

Damien Sharkov
Wednesday 02 December 2015 14:41 GMT
Demonstrators hold placards as they protest against the British government's proposed involvement in air strikes against the Isis
Demonstrators hold placards as they protest against the British government's proposed involvement in air strikes against the Isis (AFP)

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Louise Thomas

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UK parliamentarians are likely to vote in favour of British forces joining airstrikes on territory in Syria controlled by the Isis despite a poll showing the public are against bombing.

Ministers have engaged in heated discussions surrounding the vote for several days and Prime Minister David Cameron, who first tabled the motion to extend airstrikes to Syria, called opponents of the idea “a bunch of terrorist sympathisers.”

The majority of the ruling Conservative Party has endorsed the idea of the UK joining France, US and Russia in bombing Isis in Syria, with only around a dozen of the party’s representatives likely to vote against the motion, according to reports. (UK forces already conduct raids on Isis in Iraq.)

There will likely be more dissention among the opposition Labour party, but it has declared it will not force members to vote with leader Jeremy Corbyn, who opposes airstrikes. Between 60 and 100 Labour MPs are expected to back Cameron—more than enough for the prime minister to win.

We asked people why they don’t want to bomb Syria - this is what they said

The vote follows a night of protests in front of the Houses of Parliament by activists against airstrikes, while a YouGov poll published on Wednesday shows that less than half of all voters support airstrikes. Fourty-eight per cent of voters now back Cameron’s proposal to bomb Isis in Syria, a drop from 59 per cent before the prime minister addressed parliament last week.

The number of people opposed to the idea of airstrikes has also since grown considerably from 20 per cent to 31 per cent, while 21 per cent say they are still undecided.

The House of Commons has set aside around 10 hours for debating the issue, with discussion due to begin at 11.30 am on Wednesday and a vote expected around 10.00 pm that night.

Corbyn on air strikes

On Tuesday night the Lib Dems, published a set of principles for extending strikes to Syria and leader Tim Farron called on MPs to support bombing. Former party leader Nick Clegg said he too will be voting for airstrikes. It is not clear how the remaining six MPs from the party will vote.

The Democratic Unionist Party also said the majority of its 18 lawmakers would back Cameron, although the SNP, which has 45 MPs, and the Green Party’s one MP have expressed heavy opposition to airstrikes.


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