Updates: After Marathon Debate, MPs Vote To Launch Airstrikes In Syria
MPs voted on Wednesday to approve airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria following an all-day debate. The prime minister is desperate to make sure he wins enough support in the House of Commons to send RAF jets to fight ISIS in Syria.
What We Know So Far
- MPs voted 397 to 223 to support airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria.
- David Cameron has said he will use the term Daesh to describe the terrorist organisation.
- The debate started at 11.30am, and went on for about 10 hours.
- An earlier amendment to block airstrikes in Syria was been defeated by 390 votes to 211 votes.
MPs voted 397 to 223 in favor of extending UK airstrikes from Iraq into Syria to hit ISIS territory.
Amendment to block airstrikes fails.
Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn has delivered a strong defence of airstrikes on ISIS in Syria.
In a highly unusual move, the shadow foreign secretary has been allowed to make a speech from the Labour front bench that was in direct opposition to anti-war party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
"We have a moral and practical duty to extend the action we are already taking in Iraq to Syria," Benn told the House of Commons. "There are rarely, if ever, perfect circumstances in which to deploy military forces."
"As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We should never walk by on the other side of the road."
"They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our democracy in contempt."
Benn said ISIS is a fascist organisation and Labour had a duty to listen to the request for assistance from President Holland's Socialist party of France, one of Labour's sister organisations.
"What we know about fascists is they need to be defeated," he said, to cheers from Conservative MPs and pro-airstrike Labour MPs. "We must now confront this evil."
Despite his disagreement with the Labour leader, Benn said Corbyn was "honest, principled, a decent, and a good man" and asked the prime minister to withdraw suggestions he was a terrorist sympathiser.
As many as 50 Labour MPs are thought to support airstrikes, despite party leader Jeremy Corbyn's warning against an "ill thought-out rush to war". Deep divisions at the top of the party will be exposed when shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn wraps up the 10-hour debate with a speech supporting airstrikes. Read more
A Labour shadow minister is facing an internal party investigation after it was alleged that he swore at a colleague.
Shadow minister Clive Lewis was reported to the whips office by fellow Labour MP John Woodcock after the pair got into an altercation in a corridor.
BuzzFeed News understands Lewis is set to speak to the party whip about the argument on Wednesday. Read more
Ed Miliband has said he will vote against extending bombing raids to Syria.
The shift represents a victory for a longstanding international campaign to stop calling the group "Islamic State", an attempt to avoid both legitimising its claim to represent Islam or crediting the group as a nation state. Read more
Tory MPs speak out against airstrikes.
Two Tory MPs – John Baron and David Davis – spoke out against airstrikes in Syria.
Baron, a member of the foreign affairs committee, has tabled an amendment to the government motion which "declines to authorise military action" and has the support of more than 100 MPs.
He called for a "long-term strategy, a realistic strategy", adding: "Otherwise we risk repeating the errors that we made in Iraq, in Helmand, in Libya, and would have made only two years ago in this house if we had allowed the government to intervene on behalf of the rebels."
Davis, a former shadow home secretary, warned against "symbolic" airstrikes and said Turkey and Saudi Arabia must do more to tackle ISIS.
"If we want to do something straightaway which will do more than several squadrons of aircraft, it's get our allies to do their job," he said.
"People have raised several times: 'Shouldn't we help the French?' Yes. We should help our allies. We should help our allies by destroying ISIS, by doing it properly, not by symbolism."
Benn hits back at Corbyn's terror warning.
After Corbyn's spokesman suggested airstrikes made terror attacks in Britain more likely, a spokesman for shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said: "Daesh have already killed British citizens in Tunisia, blown up Lebanese citizens and anti-war campaigners in Turkey, and murdered journalists.
"They are a threat to all those that do not follow their repugnant creed. Inaction also has a cost in lives because they will continue to target and attack our citizens."
There are only 10,000–15,000 moderate troops in Syria, Labour MP says.
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi has accused David Cameron of exaggerating the number of moderate troops in Syria.
Last week, the prime minister said that while Coalition forces could launch airstrikes, there were 70,000 moderate troops in Syria who would fight the ground battle.
But this has been a source of concern for many MPs unsure about whether they will back the strikes.
Qureshi, a member of the foreign affairs select committee, said during the Commons debatethat on a trip to the Middle East last week, she was told by military officials and politicians there were only 10,000–15,000 moderate troops. She said "that was the answer given by everyone there".
Qureshi intervened in the debate after SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson repeatedly challenged government ministers to give more details on ground troops Cameron said would work with the UK government if parliament agreed to launch airstrikes on Syria.
During the debate in parliament, Robertson said: "I would invite any member from the government side to tell the house what [the make-up of the moderate troops are]."
No minister responded, but Conservative MP Richard Benyon, who sits on the defence committee, said Robertson's point was "nit-picking".
Trolling and abuse "is common".
"Trolling and abuse on the internet and abuse on social media has been absolutely roundly denounced repeatedly by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership – he's made a particular point of saying he completely rejects it," Corbyn's spokesman said after Labour MP's reported that they have been receiving threatening messages about today's vote on airstrikes.
"I think the reality is, as anyone who deals with social media knows, abuse of that kind is common across the piece. And it's happening on both sides of almost every argument there is and it's certainly happening on both sides of this one and in the Labour party and in other political parties as well."
Corbyn's spokesman: Iraq airstrikes not working.
Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman has confirmed the Labour leader believes the UK's airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq are not working and should be reviewed.
Asked during a briefing to journalists whether Corbyn opposed military action in Iraq, he said: "Jeremy Corbyn has said publicly that he thinks that needs looking at again. Although it's different in Iraq, although it has a different legal basis and is supported by the government of Iraq and there are ground forces in Iraq that are legitimate. ... It's a fact that despite more than 15 months of bombing, not a lot of progress has been made.
"The government is talking about the 30% of territory supposedly lost by ISIS in that period, I think that's contested. But the real point is that although ISIS has lost territory in that time ... it also took the city of Ramadi earlier this year. So I think we have to bear in mind that the campaign in Iraq isn't going that well. ... So he's questioning whether that's the right way to go."
The spokesman also denied Corbyn was a pacifist. "He's not a pacifist, full stop."
He said opinion had shifted on the case for airstrikes "in the media, in parliament, in the PLP, in the shadow cabinet". But he added: "Given the fact that the government insists on whipping its own MPs and the line-up we're familiar with I think it's expected the government are going to win the vote today, but it's definitely lost the argument."
Will airstrikes increase the threat of attacks in the UK? "I think Jeremy Corbyn indicated in his speech that it's not just on the Labour side, it's also on the Tory side, and people with wide military experience, that the increased threat of terrorist attacks here must be a significant possibility given what is likely to take place, that Britain will be taking part in this military campaign in Syria.
"It's interesting that the prime minister has not felt able to answer directly the question of what advice he was given by the security services about whether there would be an increased threat of attack here – he's avoided doing that, and I think there will be reason for that. We've seen what happened in France recently, we've seen what happened with the Russians directly after their own involvement in the Syrian conflict."
Corbyn spokesman says the vote is likely to go Cameron's way.
David Cameron turned down at least 10 opportunities to apologise for calling anti-war opponents "terrorist sympathisers".
David Cameron has repeatedly refused to apologise for saying MPs who vote against airstrikes in Syria will be siding with "a bunch of terrorist sympathisers".
Anger among opposition MPs over the prime minister's choice of words threatened to capsize his speech during Wednesday's crunch Commons debate on whether to authorise airstrikes. Nine MPs interrupted the prime minister to request he withdraw the comments. Read more.
Corbyn declines to say whether he supports ongoing airstrikes in Iraq.
A backbench Labour MP John Woodcock asked Corbyn to clarify his position on Iraq. Parliament voted in favour of launching RAT airstrikes on ISIS targets in norther Iraq in October last year.
He asked the Labour leader to confirm that he "in no way will want to remove the air protection which was voted on with an overwhelming majority in the house 14 months ago."
But Corbyn failed to reply, simply stating: "It is not part of the motion today".
Several other MPs, particularly on the Conservative backbenches, went on to ask Corbyn a variation of Woodcock's question.
David Burrowes challenged Corbyn on whether he supported airstrikes in Iraq and Jacob Rees-Mogg, also a Tory MP, complained that Corbyn had failed to adequately respond to the question.
As a result, Corbyn was heckled throughout his speech and MPs continued to call on him to "answer".
"Engaged in a defence of Islam."
"If we don't take action against Daesh now, there will be even fewer ground forces over time," Cameron said.
Cameron called ISIS "women-raping, Muslim-murdering, medieval monsters" who are "hijacking" Islam.
He also countered arguments that bombings would anger and potentially radicalise British Muslims, saying the bombings are part of "a defence of Islam" and that to not attack ISIS would be to "betray British Muslims".
Press Association forecast on the vote.
Cameron says 800 Britons have gone to Syria to fight.
Repeated calls for Cameron to apologise for saying those opposing airstrikes are "a bunch of terrorist sympathisers".
Cameron transitions from using "ISIL" to "Daesh".
"This evil death cult is neither a true representation of Islam, nor a state," Cameron said. He will henceforth refer to it as "Daesh".
"Do we work with our allies to degrade this threat ... or do we sit back and wait for them [ISIS] to attack us?"
Cameron en route.
How many Labour MPs are expected to vote for airstrikes?
A senior Labour source told BuzzFeed News that as of Tuesday night, only around 30 Labour MPs were expected to vote for airstrikes. But they said on Wednesday morning that number had risen to over 40 – with David Cameron's "terrorist sympathisers" comment actually galvanising support for military action.
"With that and the online abuse, MPs are now just thinking: 'Fuck this I'm going to vote with my instincts,'" the source said. Labour believes it would be a "huge shock" if more than 50 Labour MPs backed airstrikes, although a fair few are likely to abstain.
David Cameron agrees to use "Daesh" instead of "ISIL".
The prime minister will now refer to the terror group it previously called ISIL as Daesh, after a sustained campaign from a backbench Tory MP.
Rehman Chishti, the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, has repeatedly requested the government to stop referring to the group as Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL. "Their atrocities in Iraq and Syria clearly demonstrate they are not Islamic nor are they a state," he previously said.
Instead, he argued that calling the group ISIL "gives it legitimacy by linking it to Islam" and instead urged the government to use the Arabic acronym for the group, Daesh.
Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn has also publicly called on the government to use Daesh but it is understood that Downing Street was wary that the name change could confuse the public.
The decision to change what the terrorist organisation is referred to as comes after 170 MPs backed Chishti's call.
It is unclear whether the Tory MP will continue his campaign to now urge the government to call the group "Faesh", the Arabic word for obscene, as he called for in June.
Shadow foreign minister Diana Johnson has been told she could lose her seat if she votes for airstrikes in Syria.
Johnson wrote a message on Facebook on Tuesday night outlining a threatening email she had received from a "Labour party member". Read more.
The debate is due to start at 11.30am, with a vote expected at around 10pm.
David Cameron has said ISIS poses a threat to British security and that military action is just one part of a wider strategy to defeat them. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner, opposes airstrikes but has given his MPs a free vote on the issue. With most Tories in favour – plus the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionists onside – the prime minister is expected to win parliamentary approval to extend airstrikes from Iraq to Syria.
Downing Street has released the text of the government motion that MPs will be voting on – it makes clear that no UK ground troops will be deployed:
That this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an 'unprecedented threat to international peace and security' and calls on states to take 'all necessary measures' to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to 'eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria'; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government's continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government's continued determination to cut ISIL's sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK's particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government's commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty's Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
Emily Ashton, Siraj Datoo, and Jim Waterson contributed reporting.